YAOUNDE, Cameroon

Separatists have kidnapped tribal leaders in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions, with at least two left dead, local sources reported Monday.

“Separatists attacked the city of Buea this weekend and kidnapped the chiefs of Mile 14, Mile 15, and Mile 16,” Bernard Okalia Bilai, governor of the Southwest region told Anadolu Agency on Monday.

“We learned that the chiefs of Mile 14 and Mile 15 died […] while the chief of Mile 16 is believed to still be alive,” Bilai said, adding that authorities had recovered the dead bodies of the chief of Mile 14 on Sunday after he died at the hands of his captors.

In the Northwest region, another area plagued by conflict since 2016, the fon, a local chieftain, of the Babanki people was also kidnapped Saturday by another group, according to the governor of the region, Adolphe Lele Lafrique.

“These kidnappings of traditional chiefs, which take place after the regional elections held on December 6, are the logical consequence of their political commitment. This is proof that the separatists have resolved to follow through on their threats, including terrorizing those who took part in these elections,” retired Col. Alfred Fuller told Anadolu Agency.

Cameroonian opposition and separatist groups have called for a boycott of the elections.

Separatist fighters have attacked schools, kidnapped and assaulted hundreds of students, teachers, traditional rulers, and government officials for not complying with their demands.

The Central African country has been marred by protests and violence since 2016, with residents in English-speaking regions saying they have been marginalized for decades by the central government and the French-speaking majority.

They are calling for independence or a return to a federal state.

Violence in the Anglophone regions over the last three years has claimed an estimated 3,000 lives and caused the displacement of over 730,000 civilians, according to the Human Rights Watch.

In June, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said Cameroon topped the list as the most neglected crisis on the planet in 2019 for a second year running.

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