Gunmen stormed a school in Cameroon on Saturday and opened fire indiscriminately, killing at least eight children and wounding over a dozen in Kumba area of the West African country.
Kumba is in the South West of Cameroon, a region where separatist insurgents operate.
According to reports, the armed men arrived at the Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy around midday on motorbikes and in civilian clothes and started shooting indiscrimately.
The assailants were said to have met the children in class and opened fire on them.
Some children jumped from second storey windows, injuring themselves.
It was unclear if the attack was linked to an ongoing struggle between the army and groups seeking to form a breakaway state called Ambazonia in the English-speaking west.
But it was a grim new low in a region that since 2017 has seen hundreds die and thousands displaced because of the conflict, with many children unable to attend school.
A mother, Isabel Dione, found her 12-year-old daughter on the floor of a classroom, bleeding from the stomach. The girl was rushed to hospital where she is undergoing treatment for a gunshot wound
The United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said eight children had died, some by machete, and that 12 were wounded.
Videos circulating on social media filmed by local journalists showed adults rushing from the school with children in their arms, surrounded by wailing onlookers.
One photo showed the inside of a classroom, where a pile of dried blood had pooled on the floor near some scattered flip-flops.
Local education official Ahhim Abanaw Obase confirmed six deaths of children aged between 12 and 14, and added that another eight had been taken to hospital.
A prominent separatist leader said his group was working on a statement that will “express our disgust” at the attack, without providing further detail.
Anglophone secessionists have imposed curfews and closed schools as part of their protest against President Paul Biya’s French-speaking government and its perceived marginalisation of the English-speaking minority. Rights groups have documented abuses on civilians from both sides.
Last year, officials blamed separatists for kidnapping dozens of schoolchildren, which the separatists denied.