Cameroon leader tells rebels to lay down arms after kidnappings

Seventy-nine pupils were kidnapped in Cameroon

Dozens of people, a lot of them children, have been kidnapped from a school in the city of Bamenda in Cameroon's northwestern Anglophone region, which is struggling with a separatist insurgency.

The country's communications minister, Issa Bakary Tchiroma, said all students, who had been taken from a school in the city of Bamenda, had been released.

The students were abducted along with their principal, a teacher and a driver, the official said, as a source at the school confirmed the kidnapping of the pupils.

A video of some of the children, believed to have been filmed by one of the kidnappers, is being shared on social media.

It was not clear who was responsible for the kidnapping, which occurred in the English-speaking region of Cameroon where separatists are fighting to form a breakaway state.

There has been no official statement from the school authorities and as reporters spoke to the parents, a lot of them believed a number of children who had not been kidnapped were being held by the authorities, something that only piles up their frustration.

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They have imposed curfews and shut down schools in protest against President Paul Biya's French-speaking government. The children said they were kidnapped late Sunday and didn't know where they were being held. In August the agro-industry said that more than 6,000 of its 20,000 workers had fled sporadic attacks, killings and kidnappings from armed separatists seeking an independent English-speaking state. In the footage, six children are forced to give the names of their parents.

"We hope and pray they release the kids and the teachers", he added. The footage could not be immediately verified, but parents have reportedly been reacting to images of their children on social media, according to AP. The 85-year-old just won his seventh term in an election that the BBC reports was "marred by low turnout and voter intimidation".

Around a fifth of Cameroon's 22 million people are English-speaking - a minority whose presence dates back to the colonial period.

At the start of the school year in September, several secondary schools were attacked, a headmaster was killed and a teacher was badly mutilated.

Cameroon, once a German colony, was divided between Britain and France after World War I. The French colony gained independence in 1960, becoming Cameroon. The separatists claim that they have been marginalised in Biya's regime.

A government spokesperson said it was keeping track of developments surrounding the kidnapping, but provided no other details.

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