NEW DELHI, Oct 25: In an internationally condemned incident, gunmen allegedly representing separatist groups stormed into a school killing at least six children and injuring about a dozen others in Kumba city in the south-west region of Cameroon. The United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs gave the casualty figure at eight children.
Agency reports said gunmen arrived at the school on motorcycles and in plain clothes on Saturday afternoon and opened fire indiscriminately. The UN office report said some of the deceased children also bore wounds caused by machete while some children were injured jumping from second storey windows.
The local officials blamed the separatist groups for the attack but it was unclear if the attack was linked to an ongoing struggle between the army and groups seeking to form a breakaway state called Ambazonia in the English-speaking west.
“They found the children in class and they opened fire on them,” city sub-prefect Ali Anougou said. Local education official Ahhim Abanaw Obase confirmed six deaths of children aged between 12 and 14, and added that another eight had been taken to hospital.
While Anougou and other officials blamed the attack on the secessionists but did not offer any evidence, a prominent separatist leader Ayuk Tabe condemned the attack describing it as “inhumane” in a Twitter post and said “anyone responsible for these atrocities must be brought to book.”
Giving some eye-witness accounts of the incident, the agency reports said Isabel Dione ran into the school to search for her 12-year-old daughter when she heard about the shooting. She found her on the floor of a classroom, bleeding from the stomach.
“She was helpless and she was shouting ‘mum please help me’, and I told her ‘only your God can save you now’,” Dione said. The girl was rushed to hospital where she is undergoing treatment for a gunshot wound.
Videos circulating on social media filmed by local journalists showed adults rushing from the school with children in their arms, surrounded by wailing onlookers. One photo verified by a news agency showed the inside of a classroom, where dried blood had pooled on the floor near some scattered flip-flops.
The incident evidently was a grim new low in a region that since 2017 has seen hundreds die and thousands displaced because of the conflict, with many children unable to attend school. Many armed splinter groups have emerged from inside the separatist movement since 2017, and one voice rarely speaks for all. Anglophone secessionists have imposed curfews and closed schools as part of their protest against President Paul Biya’s French-speaking government and its perceived marginalisation of the English-speaking minority.
Rights groups have documented abuses on civilians from both sides. Last year, officials blamed separatists for kidnapping dozens of schoolchildren but the separatist leaders denied the allegation.
The attack on the school-children reminding the similar gory incident of the army school attack by the terrorists in Peshawar, Pakistan, has been condemned by the authorities all over the world.