At least 15 people were killed in a new bout of fighting between Cameroon army troops and separatist rebels, the two sides said, in a rise in violence since President Paul Biya won a seventh term in power in October.
The conflict between Anglophone separatists, who want to create an independent state Ambazonia, and government forces killed more than 400 people in western Cameroon since last year and emerged as Biya’s biggest security problem in nearly four decades of rule.
The two sides often provide conflicting accounts of fighting, but both report heavier casualties in recent weeks, with dozens killed.
Twenty-three separatists were killed in clashes with government troops since November 10 near Nkambe in Cameroon’s English-speaking Northwest region, while six were killed in nearby Ndu, Army representative Didier Badjeck said.
Ivo Tapang, spokesman for the Ambazonian Defence Force, one of the main Anglophone secessionist militias, confirmed fighting occurred in Nkambe, but disputed Badjeck’s account.
He said ADF troops encircled an army truck near Nkambe after it was overturned by a roadside bomb on Saturday.
“Two of our fighters were killed and we killed 13 of them,” he said.
The fighting follows clashes on October 23 that killed at least 10 and up to 30 combatants, according to differing accounts that could not be independently verified.
Separatist militias launched an insurrection last year against the predominantly Francophone central government after authorities repressed peaceful protests against perceived marginalisation of the English-speaking minority.
The army burned villages and killed unarmed civilians, residents told Reuters, forcing thousands to flee to French-speaking regions or neighbouring Nigeria.
Threats by the separatists disrupted voting in Cameroon’s two Anglophone regions during the October 7 election, which Biya won by a landslide to extend his 36-year rule.
The linguistic divide harks back to the end of World War One, when the League of Nations divided the former German colony of Kamerun between the allied French and British victors.