The 79 children kidnapped from a Presbyterian school in northwest Cameroon have been freed by their captors, according to one of the key figures involved in the negotiations for the release of the hostages.
“They were brought last night to one of our churches … near Bamenda (the regional capital). They look tired and psychologically tortured,” said the moderator of the country’s Presbyterian Church, Fonki Samuel Forba. The students are between 11 and 17 years old.
He pleaded with the kidnappers to “free the staff still in their keeping.”
The church leader said he had asked parents and guardians to take home all their children.
“It is unfortunate we have to close the school and send home 700 children,” he said. “Their security is not assured by the state and armed groups constantly attack and kidnap them.”
He said the school previously had some students kidnapped which was resolved when the church paid a ransom of 2.5 million francs (about $4,000 dollars) to the armed gang. “We can no longer continue,” he said.
Cameroon’s northwest and southwest areas are beset by instability caused by English-speaking separatists. Fighting between the military and separatists increased after the government clamped down on peaceful demonstrations by English-speaking teachers and lawyers protesting what they said was their marginalization by Cameroon’s French-speaking majority.