A group of soldiers have killed nine villagers including an 18-month-old girl, in a “manifestly disproportionate” and “hasty” response to a confrontation in northwest Cameroon, the government has said.
The four soldiers were searching for a missing comrade in the village of Missong when they came across a group of angry villagers at night, the defence ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
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“In an inappropriate reaction, unsuited to the circumstances and manifestly disproportionate to the hostile villagers’ refusal to cooperate … the soldiers, in a hasty reaction of self-protection … used their weapons,” the statement said.
The victims were four men, four women and the infant, it said. A one-year-old child was lightly injured and taken to hospital.
The statement was an unusual admission of blame by the army, which civilians and rights groups have accused of numerous killings and abuses during an ongoing separatist conflict.
Cameroon’s northwest region is one of two English-speaking regions where secessionist fighters protesting perceived marginalisation by the French-speaking majority have been battling government troops since 2016.
Schooling and the internet have been regularly disrupted in the anglophone areas, as has everyday life. In all, nearly one million people have been displaced into neighbouring Nigeria. The conflict has also killed more than 3,000 people.
Last October, a mob lynched a military police officer after he killed a five-year-old girl when he fired on a car at a checkpoint. A month later, a policeman killed an eight-year-old girl in similar circumstances.
The ministry said the four soldiers have been arrested and an investigation opened. It offered its condolences to the families of the victims.