Gunmen in military uniforms and masks have allegedly killed 22 people in a village at the heart of a separatist insurgency in western Cameroon, shooting women and children and burning others in their homes, the United Nations said on Monday.
Cameroon’s army has since 2017 been fighting English-speaking militias seeking to form a breakaway state called Ambazonia amid the cocoa farms and forests of west Cameroon. As fighting has intensified, so have abuses by both sides, witnesses and rights groups say.
The fighting is the gravest threat to stability in the oil- and cocoa-producing country since President Paul Biya took power nearly 40 years ago.
It was not yet clear who was responsible for Friday’s attack in Ntumbo in the northwest region of Cameroon near the Nigerian border. In a statement, separatists blamed the army. In its own the statement, the army denied wrongdoing.
Survivors “were extremely shocked and traumatized. People just left their houses and left everything behind,” said James Nunan, an official with the U.N. humanitarian coordination agency OCHA that conducted interviews with witnesses and survivors.
Nunan said that 14 of the dead were children, some of whom were under five. At least 600 people fled, he said.