CAPTAIN, Cameroon – Cameroonian officials say Anglophone rebels are adopting new tactics in the fight to break away from the country’s French-speaking majority. Officials say the separatists have started disguising themselves as army to infiltrate and attack the village.
In a video widely circulated on social media platforms, including Facebook and WhatsApp, a group of 10 men armed with AK-44 assault rifles claimed to be separatist fighters. People dressed in civilian clothes showed Cameroonian military uniforms, guns, ammunition and bulletproof vests, saying they had been confiscated from the Cameroonian military. The men display the head of a man claiming that it was a government soldier killed and beheaded.
Cameroon’s military says the chief, who appears as a fighter trophy, is one of his troops stationed in the English-speaking northwestern border town of Babadjou, a French-speaking commercial town.
More than 20 English-speaking separatists from northwestern Pinion infiltrated French-speaking west on Wednesday, said Aoh Fonka, governor of the western region of Camadun, where Babadju is located. He said the militants attacked government troops and looted Babadjoi’s shop.
Fonca said two government soldiers were killed for fooling government troops in disguise in Cameroonian military uniforms.
Fonka visited Babadjau on Wednesday. He encouraged civilians fleeing the bushes to return to the country.
Fonka said more government troops had been deployed in Babadjau and nearby villages to search for fighters hiding in the bushes or among civilians.
The Cameroonian army issued a statement warning both separatists and civilians against wearing military uniforms.
Separatists have claimed on social media that hundreds of Cameroonian military uniforms have been removed from the bodies of government soldiers they killed. The fighters said they had seized some uniforms from military camps that had attacked the English-speaking west.
The army acknowledged that the fighters had seized uniforms and military weapons from government troops, but said that the number of weapons and uniforms seized was small.
Peter Ngumulah, a 38-year-old college teacher who has lived in Babadjou for two years, said he fled fighting between government forces and separatists in the northwestern town of Bambili. Engumullah said the government should increase the number of its troops in Babadjau.
“For heaven’s sake, how can only two soldiers stay on the border [post between the West and North-West regions]Knowing sophisticated weapons in the hands of separatist fighters now? “Everything is getting out of hand, and I pray that the international community will take action and force both sides to sit at the roundtable for unconditional talks,” he said.
Fonca said there were five soldiers in Babadjou at the military control post when the fighters attacked. One was wounded and three soldiers escaped. The military said he was responding to treatment at a hospital.
This is not the first time English-speaking separatists have invaded French-speaking territory. Fighters have attacked the French-speaking village of Galim three times this year, killing at least seven government soldiers. The military says insurgents have stolen weapons and deployed additional forces to kill or arrest fighters.
Cameroon’s separatists have been fighting for an independent English-speaking state in the western part of the French-speaking country since 2011.
The conflict has claimed the lives of more than 3,000 people and forced 550,000 to flee to Cameroon’s French-speaking region or neighboring Nigeria, according to the United Nations.