The Cameroonian government is investigating a video circulating online that appears to show men in military uniforms shooting dead two women and two children for being suspected members of the armed Boko Haram group.
The video, shared more than 9,000 times on Twitter, shows two women, one with an infant strapped to her back, being led by a group of uniformed men across a patch of dusty scrubland.
“In front of you are the BH arriving that we have captured during an assault,” the man filming the scene is heard saying in French. BH in Cameroon refers to the Boko Haram, which for nine years has been waging an armed campaign in northeast Nigeria.
The women are blindfolded and told to sit down alongside their children. Moments later, two men step back, level their rifles and fire a series of rounds.
Al Jazeera and other news agencies have not been able to verify the authenticity of the video, including when and where it was filmed.
Issa Tchiroma Bakary, a spokesperson for the Cameroonian government, said the soldiers’ attire in the video did not match those of its military personnel and that the video must be aimed at tarnishing the country’s reputation.
“The combat uniforms used by the Cameroonian army in such circumstances are standard combat suits, namely heavy helmets, bulletproof vests and rangers’ boots,” he said.
“This is obviously not the case in the video,” he added.
“The weapons displayed by the alleged soldiers presented in the video are not those used by the Cameroonian army in this area of operation.”
Bakary also said that President Paul Biya had ordered an investigation into the footage.
Military spokesman Didier Badjeck also disavowed the video.
“It indicates how much our enemies are at work to distract the attention of the soldiers,” Badjeck said. “Cameroon is signatory to international treaties and conventions and knows what it means to respect human dignity at war.”
Amnesty International, however, countered the government’s claims, saying it had “gathered credible evidence that it was Cameroonian soldiers depicted in a video carrying out the horrific extrajudicial executions of two women and two young children.”
The rights group said analysis of the weapons, dialogue and uniforms, along with witness testimonies, “all strongly suggest that the perpetrators of the executions are Cameroonian soldiers” and that the government’s denial “simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny”.
“Given the gravity of these horrific acts – the cold-blooded and calculated slaughter of women and young children – these hasty and dismissive denials cast serious doubt over whether any investigation will be genuine,” said Samira Daoud, deputy director of Amnesty International’s West Africa office.
“It is imperative that a proper, impartial investigation is undertaken and those responsible for these abhorrent acts are brought to justice,” she added.
Cameroon’s security is a growing issue as the country faces elections in October. Biya, who has been in power for more than 35 years, announced on Friday that he would seek re-election.
“I will be your candidate in the next presidential election,” Biya tweeted.
The Cameroonian army is fighting armed groups on two fronts: against Anglophone separatists in the heavily forested west and Boko Haram in the arid north.
Rights groups have accused the army of mistreating civilians and opposition fighters, charges the army and the government deny. Last year, Amnesty International said the army tortured suspected Boko Haram fighters.
In the English-speaking western regions, soldiers have burned villages and killed civilians as they try to quell a growing secessionist movement, according to local residents contacted by Reuters news agency earlier this year. The army rejected those accusations and said it has respected human rights.
On Thursday, several people, including civilians, were killed in the town of Kumba as clashes between the army and anglophone separatists continue, sources told AFP news agency.