Renewed fighting claims more lives in Cameroon

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Heavy fighting between Cameroon’s army and separatist rebels killed at least 10 people, the two sides said in the deadliest clash since President Paul Biya won a seventh term earlier this week.

Conflict between Anglophone separatists wanting an independent state called Ambazonia and government forces has killed hundreds since last year and emerged as Biya’s greatest security problemafter nearly four decades in power.

Threats by separatists disrupted voting in Cameroon’s two Anglophone regions during the October 7 election, keeping turnout to five percent in Northwest and 16 percent in Southwest.

Cameroon government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary told Reuters the army killed about 30 separatists in fighting on Tuesday near Ndu and freed 16 hostages.

One government soldier was killed in the fighting, he added.

Cho Ayaba, head of the Ambazonian Defence Force, one of the main Anglophone secessionist groups, disputed Tchiroma’s death toll. He said seven rebel fighters were killed when the army sacked one of their camps and three army soldiers died.
“For the past two months, the regime attacked our camps,” Ayaba said. “We lost seven and a couple of others were wounded.”

Cameroon’s linguistic divide harks back to the end of World War One, when the League of Nations divided the former German colony of Kamerun between allied French and British victors.

Separatist militia launched an insurrection last year against the predominantly Francophone central government after authorities violently repressed peaceful protests against perceived marginalisation of English speakers.

The army burned villages and killed unarmed civilians, residents told Reuters, forcing thousands to flee to French-speaking regions or neighbouring Nigeria.

Biya won the election with 71% of the vote, extending his 36-year-rule, the second-longest of any African leader.