Separatist militants raided a prison in northwestern Cameroon and freed about 100 inmates, the government and separatists said on Thursday, as the rebels vowed to block next month’s presidential election in English-speaking regions.
President Paul Biya is expected to easily extend his 36-year rule in the October 7 vote but the insurgency by Anglophone rebels has emerged as his government’s most serious challenge in years.
The separatists complain of discrimination against English speakers in the predominantly Francophone country and want to create an independent state called Ambazonia in the oil and cocoa-producing northwest and southwest regions, according to a Reuters report.
Their hit-and-run raids have killed more than 160 members of Cameroon’s security forces in the past year, Amnesty International has said. State forces have also shot at civilians from helicopters, burned villages and killed residents, forcing thousands to flee.
Nchia Martin Achuo, the head of the Tigers of Ambazonia, a separatist group that says it has around 2,000 fighters, said his men had attacked the prison in the northwest town of Wum around 4:00am on Wednesday and freed 106 “innocent people”.
“There was a shootout between our boys and the prison guards,” he said. “I heard that they (government soldiers) have been arresting innocent people on the street. They are not criminals in that prison.”
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