Fighting between army troops and armed separatists in Cameroon has purportedly claimed at least 15 lives in an Anglophone region in the French-speaking West African country.
Ivo Tapang, spokesman for the self-proclaimed Ambazonian Defense Force — one of the main Anglophone secessionist militia groups — said on Tuesday that the fighting had occurred in Nkambe on Saturday.
He said the group’s forces had encircled and attacked a government army truck near Nkambe after it was overturned as a result of the explosion of a roadside bomb.
“Two of our fighters were killed and we killed 13 of them,” he claimed.
There was no immediate comment from the Cameroonian government or army, however.
Army representative Didier Badjeck has previously said that some 29 separatists have been killed in clashes with government troops since November 10.
The two sides often provide conflicting accounts of the fighting, but both have reported heavier casualties in recent weeks.
Violence in the separatist regions has been on the rise despite a recent call by President Paul Biya on armed groups to “lay down their arms” and his acknowledgement of the Anglophone regions’ “frustrations and aspirations.”
Cameroon’s president calls on Anglophone separatists in the country to lay down their arms, shortly before the release of 79 boys and girls who had been abducted in an Anglophone region.
President Biya has also promised decentralization policies that would give the Anglophone regions more leeway.
The government of the 85-year-old president, who was sworn in for his seventh term in office earlier this month, has carried out several raids in Anglophone areas over the last months.
Violence in the country’s two English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions erupted last year after a security crackdown was reportedly launched on mass protests — led by lawyers and teachers — over the government’s alleged failure to give enough recognition to the English legal and education systems in the separatist regions.
Cameroon’s English-speaking minority make up about 20 percent of the population of the French-speaking country.
By Africafrique and agencies