Anglophone separatists have killed at least 20 people, and injured another 10, in a dawn raid in western Cameroon.
The gunmen attacked the village of Egbekaw, a neighbourhood in the town of Mamfe, setting houses on fire and killing men, women and children as they slept, local government official Viang Mekala told journalists on Monday.
English-speaking separatists have been fighting to carve out an independent state called Ambazonia in western Cameroon. Armed groups have clashed with government forces and carried out attacks, kidnappings and killings in the region since 2017.
“The situation is under control and the population should not panic,” Mekala said, adding that security forces were searching the area.
“The attack left around 20 dead, men, women and children, and 10 seriously injured people are in hospital,” a senior regional administrative official told journalists on condition of anonymity.
Another official reported that 23 people had been killed and 15 houses burned.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
Decades of grievances over perceived discrimination by the Francophone majority crystallized into a series of protests and riots in 2016.
The violent suppression of those protests helped to spark a full-blown conflict between Cameroon’s armed forces and Ambazonian separatist rebel groups. The struggle has claimed more than 6,000 victims.
Earlier this year, human rights group Amnesty International slammed both the government troops and the militias and separatists for killings, rapes, torture, and burning of houses among other atrocities in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions.
Local residents said they suspected the Egbekaw attack was meant to disrupt celebrations marking Paul Biya’s 41st anniversary as Cameroon’s president. Events were due to take place in Mamfe and other centres on Monday, with several senior politicians in attendance.