Unidentified gunmen have attacked a school in a town in Cameroon’s violence-hit Southwest Region, killing at least three students and one teacher, according to a local human rights group.
The Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) said in a statement on Wednesday that several others were wounded in the attack in Ekondo Titi. It identified the slain students as being aged 12, 16 and 17 and the fourth victim as a French language teacher.
“CHRDA stronger condemns this attack on school children and teachers,” the group said in a statement, while calling for the government to take measures to “impartially and effectively investigate the incident”.
“Take all necessary measures to put an end to the Anglophone Crisis by a truthful and inclusive dialogue,” the statement added.
The more than four-year-old Anglophone conflict began when government forces used deadly force to suppress peaceful protests by lawyers and teachers against perceived marginalisation by the country’s majority Francophone government. In response, dozens of armed separatist groups then formed to fight for an independent nation called Ambazonia.
Some 4,000 people have so far been killed in the conflict, with more than 700,000 people forced to flee their homes.
Rights groups have accused both separatists and government security forces of committing abuses.
Kenneth Nanji, the mayor of Ekondo Titi, also confirmed the attack on the school without providing a death toll.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Worsening violence in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions has been taking an increasingly heavy toll on civilians, with renewed attacks against schools documented in recent months.
Between October and December 2020, the United Nations recorded 35 attacks on schools including the “killing, torture and abduction of students and teachers, as well as arson of education facilities”, according to an internal report provided to Al Jazeera earlier this year.
Of those attacks, 30 were carried out by separatist groups resulting in 10 civilian deaths and 67 abductions.
The five other incidents involved government security forces including the “accidental discharge of weapons” near schools and resulted in five civilian injuries.
Schools have been a main point of attack since the beginning of the conflict when separatists called for a boycott on education to draw attention to the increased use of French in the classroom and reliance on monolingual French-speaking teachers.