YAOUNDE, Cameroon -- Suspected separatist rebels in western Cameroon attacked rural villages, killing at least 30 people, say health workers in the Akwaya district.
Injured survivors are being treated at the Presbyterian Hospital in Akwaya, according to Samuel Fonki, a Presbyterian Church moderator.
“We community leaders and clerics were planning peace talks to end the matter (conflict with separatists) and then this unfortunate incident took place where 30 people including children, women, young girls, men and the old were massacred by some armed men,” said Fonki.
“Some civilians were even burned in their houses. We want to plead that the government should put a very strong military base in Akwaya since that area is also near Nigeria,” Fonki said.
Separatists have denied claims their fighters are responsible for the Akwaya massacre. They blame armed groups operating across the border in Cameroon and Nigeria.
Hundreds of frightened civilians fled their villages to safer spots near the border with Nigeria, said Fonki.
Among the dead were 5 Nigerian citizens doing business in Cameroon, said Fonki. Some of the wounded died while being evacuated to Nigeria for treatment in better-equipped hospitals, he said.
Cameroon troops are being deployed to protect civilians in Akwaya, said a local government worker who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation by separatists.
Injured victims are still being rushed to hospitals in the district, said Enow Daniel Keyong, the highest government health official in Akwaya.
“Since the incident was very horrific, we medical staff members never had the courage to go to the field, so the injured were actually transported by relatives and villagers to the Presbyterian Hospital where we attended to them,” Kewong said.
He said most of the injured rushed to hospitals had severe head and chest injuries, from gunshots and machete cuts while a few had minor injuries.
“The severely injured were stabilized by Cameroon health workers and referred to neighboring Nigeria for continuation of care,” he said.
Cameroon’s English-speaking separatists launched a rebellion in 2017, with the stated goal of breaking away from the area dominated by the French-speaking majority country and setting up an independent, English-speaking state. The government has accused them of many of the atrocities committed against English-speaking civilians.
The separatist conflict has killed more than 3,300 people and displaced more than 750,000 others, according to the U.N.