Multiple short explosions at a running race in Cameroon’s English-speaking region left 19 athletes wounded, a local doctor told the Reuters news agency.
The blasts took place on Saturday in Buea, the regional capital of the Southwest region where separatists are fighting government forces.
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The wounded athletes were being treated for blast injuries, the doctor said.
“Nineteen athletes have been brought to our facility with injuries. We have operated upon three of them. Their condition is stable and we haven’t recorded any deaths,” Martin Mokake, the director of Buea Regional Hospital, told Reuters by phone.
One of those being treated was a Gabonese citizen, he added.
The 529 race participants included local runners as well as athletes from East, Central and Northern Africa and France. They were running up the highest mountain in West and Central Africa as they competed in the Mount Cameroon Race of Hope.
The armed wing of Ambazonia Governing Council, one of the separatist armed groups in the region, claimed responsibility for the blasts.
“Our primary target was the Cameroon elite forces … that were providing security for the athletes. We will not allow Cameroon to continue its occupation,” the group’s spokesperson Capo Daniel told Reuters.
There was no immediate comment from the authorities in Buea.
Videos were shared widely on social media, but Al Jazeera was not able to independently verify the footage. One clip showed spectators cheering on a runner before dashing for cover when a small explosion goes off in the distance. Another showed a different explosion going off near a pack of runners elsewhere on the route.
The separatist rebellion began in Cameroon’s English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions in 2016 when teachers and lawyers protested against their perceived marginalisation by the primarily French-speaking national government.
A violent crackdown by security forces turned the movement towards armed rebellion, and the ensuing conflict has killed more than 3,000 people and displaced nearly one million.