Gunmen killed 10 people and injured two others at a busy junction in the city of Bamenda in Cameroon’s troubled northwest, the regional governor said on Monday.
A witness said the attackers arrived in vehicles late on Sunday, ordered people onto the floor with accusations of failing to back local separatists, and opened fire as some obeyed while others ran.
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The Ambazonia Defence Forces (ADF), the main separatist group in the English-speaking region which has been fighting since 2017 in protest of alleged marginalisation by the majority French-speaking government, denied responsibility.
North West region governor Adolphe Lele Lafrique told the Reuters news agencty a manhunt had been launched for the “terrorists” behind the massacre. “Investigations are on, and we will issue a statement on this later today,” he added.
The witness said men in military uniforms arrived in two vehicles to storm Nacho Junction, where restaurants, bars and shops are located, at around 7:30pm (18:30 GMT).
They shot at people indiscriminately, the witness said, before taking off.
“There is [the] possibility that it could be revenge killing,” ADF spokesperson Lucas Asu said, suggesting the attackers could have been disguised as separatist fighters.
Discrepancies between the French and English academic, legal and administrative systems which have always existed concurrently, as well as cries of political and economic marginalisation, crystallised into a series of protests and riots in 2016.
The violent suppression of those protests has led to a full-blown conflict that has resulted in the deaths of more than 6,000 people in Anglophone Cameroon since.
Earlier this month, human rights group Amnesty International slammed government troops, militias and separatists for killings, rapes, torture, and burning of houses among other atrocities in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions.
It said those who speak out were being threatened and detained.