After suffering blow, Cameroon mulls shift in war against separatists

Cameroon soldiers

A file photo shows Cameroonian soldiers patrolling in Amchide, northern Cameroon, one kilometre from Nigeria.

Photo credit: Reinnier Kaze | AFP

Cameroon has announced a “paradigm shift” in its anglophone region after more than 15 soldiers were killed and three armoured vehicles destroyed by separatist fighters in two separate attacks in a week.

In a statement issued Monday, the military said a convoy of elite soldiers and the Rapid Intervention Battalion, an army combat unit of the Cameroonian Armed Forces, were ambushed while on a reconnaissance mission in Bamessing in the North West region on September 16.

Four days later, a similar attack was carried out against the army in Kikaikom in the same region.
Some “15 soldiers and several civilians were killed as well as three vehicles damaged,” military spokesperson Cyrille Serge Atonfack Guemo said in the statement.

The attackers, he said, used home-made bombs and anti-tank rocket launchers.

Citing intelligence reports, Colonel Atonfack said the resurgence of terrorist groups in the region and the quality of firepower at their disposal is a result of collaboration with foreign terror players. However, he did not elaborate on this claim.

“It is thus clear that the coming into play of high-capacity explosives and new weapons undoubtedly enshrines a paradigm change in operations,” Colonel Atonfack said.

Volatile region

The English-speaking North West and South West regions of Cameroon have remained volatile since an industrial strike by lawyers and teachers over marginalisation morphed into an armed conflict in 2017.

Separatist groups have since engaged the state in a bloody conflict. The groups want English speakers to secede from the majority French-speaking country and have declared the independence of a new country they call Ambazonia.

More than 3,500 people have been killed, according to humanitarian organisations, and over 712,000 have fled their homes as a result of the conflict.

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