Gunmen have kidnapped at least six senior civil servants in Cameroon, authorities said.
The abductions happened in Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute’s native Ndian Division in the English speaking South West region of the country on Tuesday.
The Senior Divisional Officer (SDO) for Ndian, Lawrence Forwang confirmed the abductions which took place Tuesday by kidnappers he described as “secessionist terrorists”. He said the terrorists are demanding tens of millions of Central African CFA francs as ransom.
The abductees include the Divisional Delegates in the Ministries of the Economy, Housing and Urban Development, Water and Energy Resources, State Property and Land Tenure, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises and the Divisional Chief of Taxes for Ndian division. One of the abductees is a woman.
The SDO said the civil servants were on an official mission to demarcate land for an electricity supply plant project in the area. Mr Forwang said he has been in contact with one of the captives.
Despite condemning the action, the administrative officer told Cameroon’s daily newspaper, The Guardian Post that all was being done to ensure that the abducted officials are set free.
Cameroon’s English speaking Northwest and Southwest regions have been gripped by a five-year long deadly separatist conflict.
More than 3,000 people have been killed and about 700,000 have been forced to flee their homes since the crisis morphed into an armed conflict in 2017.
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There has been mounting international pressure for a ceasefire in the regions which the government in 2019 declared as economically damaged.
Last week, the USA announced visa restrictions on individuals believed to be undermining peaceful resolution of the armed conflict saying Washington was deeply concerned by the continued violence in the Anglophone regions of the Central African country.
“We continue to call for both the Cameroonian government and separatist armed groups to end the violence and engage in a dialogue without preconditions to peacefully resolve the crisis,” US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken said in a statement.
He said that the US supports the Cameroonian people, and remains committed to working together to advance democracy and mutual prosperity for both countries.
“We condemn those who undermine peace through engaging in or inciting violence, human rights violations and abuses, and threats against advocates for peace or humanitarian workers,” Mr Blinken said in the statement.