Schools in Cameroon have been attacked by gunmen, killing several children

At least seven children were killed and 12 were injured in what became known as the Cold War.

Cameroonian Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute said nine students had been killed and condemned the “terrible act of wickedness”.

“I bow before the memory of these innocent children.” He tweeted on Sunday. “I urge all Cameroonians to stand firm against these acts of atrocities. The Republic cannot succumb to terrorism.”

According to Natu Endong Chamberlain, the district’s local administrator, where the incident took place, gunmen stormed the Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy, a private school where students were studying in class, and fired on them before fleeing.

“We were studying French when we heard three shots fired from outside and the teacher had to run away so we had to lean our heads on the ground and start praying,” said one student at the scene. “” They started shooting around the school campus before they left. When they left, we found bodies and some injuries lying on the ground. ”

Local authorities fear the death toll could rise as the condition of most of the injured children is critical.

Kumba priest Boniface Tamungwa, who arrived at the scene, said he was 11 years old among the children killed.

“When I was at home with my sick wife [student] They came and started shouting that my son had been shot and killed. “I went to the school and saw my son, who was one of three children who died on the spot,” Tamungwa said.

Ongoing separatist violence

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but local officials have accused separatist militants of targeting the school. People are raising awareness about the incident on social media under the hashtag #EndAnglophoneCrisis.

This is in the context of an ongoing movement that advocates the separation of English-speaking Cameroon from the French-speaking part of the country. Separatists in the Anglophone regions have been fighting government forces and government-backed armies for many years.

Both sides have been accused of violence against civilians, beginning with residents of the country’s Anglophone province, where 20% of Cameroon’s population lives, protested against a government led by French speakers.

The United Nations estimated in February that the Anglophone conflict had displaced more than 770,000 people internally in the affected areas, while 20,000,000 Cameroonians had fled the violence escalating in neighboring Nigeria.

That same month, at least 14 children were among 22 people killed by armed men in the village of Nutambo in northwestern Cameroon, a UN official said.

“I just want to use this opportunity to condemn what has happened and to tell (the separatist fighters) that we are doing our best to stop them. Let them run, but we are behind them,” said Chamberlain, the local administrator. Chamberlain, the local administrator, said in the wake of this week’s attack.

The school was attacked just two weeks after the start of the new academic year.

An estimated 855,000 children are out of school in northwestern and southwestern Cameroon, where government forces have been battling separatist fighters for nearly four years, according to a 2019 report by the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was another “messy reminder”. [conflict’s] Heavy toll on citizens, including children, many of whom have been deprived of their right to education. ”

A spokesman for Guterres said in a statement on Sunday that he had asked the Cameroonian authorities to investigate and ensure that those responsible were held accountable.

In another statement, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore condemned the attack “in the strongest possible terms.”

“I am shocked and outraged by these heinous attacks,” Fore said, adding that schools should be a place of safety and learning, not a death trap.

The U.S. Embassy in Cameroon condemned the killings and expressed its condolences to the families of the victims.

Francis Ajuman reported from Yaounde. CNN’s Anita Patrick contributes to this report.