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Cameroon Deploys More Troops to Fight Armed Separatists

FILE - Cameroonian soldiers from the Rapid Intervention Brigade stand guard amidst dust kicked up by a helicopter in Kolofata, Cameroon.

Cameroon has deployed more troops to its English speaking regions after another wave of attacks on public buildings and the kidnapping of military and government officials by suspected armed separatists.

Defense Minister Joseph Beti Assomo says although many soldiers have been killed, the military remains determined to fight and defeat armed separatists who are bent on destroying Cameroon. He says the troops are out to ensure security, public order and the respect of state institutions.

Assomo did not give the total number of government troops in the English speaking regions, but local media says there are thousands.

Assomo says the troops were deployed following repeated attacks on government officials, public buildings and schools by suspected armed separatists fighting for what they call the independence of the English from the French speaking regions of Cameroon.

Cameroon's government says at least 30 soldiers have been killed since armed attacks began in November. Several government officials and soldiers have been kidnapped and their whereabouts are not known.

Cameroon President Paul Biya declared war on the separatists last November.

The unrest began when English-speaking teachers and lawyers in the Northwest and Southwest regions, frustrated with having to work in French, took to the streets calling for reforms and greater autonomy. It degenerated with separatists calls for independence.

On October 1, the secessionists groups declared the independence of Ambazonia saying Julius Ayuk Tabe, who was in exile in Nigeria, was their president. Armed conflicts erupted, prompting a military crackdown.

Ayuk Tabe and forty seven other separatist leaders were arrested January 5 in Nigeria and have not been seen since.

The separatists have announced on social media they will continue fighting until their leaders are released and they gain independence.

In a February 10 address, Biya said calm had returned to the English speaking regions, even though the conflict continued.

The UNHCR reports that tens of thousands of English speaking Cameroonians have crossed into Nigeria and their humanitarian needs are increasing.

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