14 children among up to 22 dead in Cameroon massacre: UN
Soldiers patrol in Bafut, after the roof of a school's dormitory was set to fire overnight, on Nov. 15, 2017, in the northwest English-speaking region of Cameroon. (AFP Photo)
Armed men carried out the bloodshed on Feb. 14 in the village of Ntumbo in the Northwest region, James Nunan, a local official of humanitarian coordination agency OCHA, told AFP.
"Up to 22 civilians were killed, including a pregnant woman and several children," Nunan said, adding that 14 children -- including nine under age five -- were among the dead.
Eleven of the children were girls, said Nunan, head of OCHA's office for the Northwest and Southwest regions, which are home to the West African country's large English-speaking minority.
Separatists in the regions have been fighting the central government for three years.
The Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon, one of the country's two main opposition parties, issued a statement saying: "The dictatorial regime (and) the supreme head of the security and defense forces are chiefly responsible for these crimes."
A key figure in the separatist movement, lawyer Agbor Mballa, in a Facebook post also accused "state defense forces" of carrying out the killings.
An army official contacted by AFP early on Feb. 16 denied the allegations, saying simply: "False". No other official response was immediately available.
The three-year conflict between anglophone forces seeking to break away from French-speaking Cameroon has claimed more than 3,000 lives and forced more than 700,000 people to flee their homes.
Feb. 14's killings followed elections on February 9 that were marred by violence in the regions blamed both on separatists and security forces.
Armed separatists prevented people from voting, threatening reprisals, while government soldiers were a heavy presence.
Separatists kidnapped more than 100 people and torched property in the run-up to the elections, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Feb. 12.
The government has not yet announced the results of the elections or turnout figures.