Armed separatists kidnapped at least 79 students and three staff members from a Presbyterian school in a troubled English-speaking region of Cameroon, the governor said Monday. Between February 2017 and May 2018, for example, at least 42 schools in the regions were attacked, including 36 that were damaged by arson attacks, 11 damaged by other types of attacks, as well as two school buses burnt down and various harassments and attacks on students and teachers.
Cameroon's North-West and South-West regions have been hit by a secessionist rebellion in recent years.
However, the Ambazonia Governing Council, the separatists' official organisation, released a statement condemning the kidnappings and demanding freedom for people taken from the school.
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Cameroon's authorities have blamed the kidnap on Anglophone separatist militias - who have called for the closing of schools in English-speaking regions.
The circumstances of the students' release is unclear but authorities say they are being questioned before being released to their parents.
A miltary source said the principal of the school had also been kidnapped.
There have been kidnappings at other schools, but the group taken Sunday was the largest number abducted at one time in Cameroon's Anglophone regions.
Separatists are fighting an armed campaign in the area as they seek to set up an independent state called Ambazonia.
"I appeal to them to lay down their arms", he told the national assembly, without mentioning the kidnapping. "They asked for a ransom", he said, though no amount was specified.
"We hope and pray they release the kids and the teachers", he added. All they want is for us to close the schools.
How did the Anglophone crisis begin?
Hundreds have been killed in Anglophone regions in the past year, where violence between armed separatists and the military have increased since a government crackdown against protesters who claim the English-speaking minority is marginalised by the French-speaking government.
About 20 percent of Cameroon's 22 million people are English speaking.
English-speakers in Cameroon have long complained that they face discrimination.
The turmoil in Cameroon comes as President Paul Biya, who has led since 1982, easily won a seventh term last month in an election that the United States says was marked by irregularities.
The president was sworn in on Tuesday, which was declared a national holiday to mark the occasion.