A group of soldiers have killed nine villagers including an 18-month-old girl, in a “manifestly disproportionate” and “hasty” response to a confrontation in northwest Cameroon, the government has said.
The four soldiers were searching for a missing comrade in the village of Missong at night when they came across a group of angry villagers, according to a statement released by the defense ministry on Tuesday.
“In an inappropriate reaction, unsuited to the circumstances and manifestly disproportionate to the hostile villagers’ refusal to cooperate the soldiers, in a hasty reaction of self-protection used their weapons,” the statement said.
According to the report, the victims included four men, four women, and an infant. A one-year-old child was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.
The statement was an unusual admission of blame by the army, which has been accused by civilians and rights groups of numerous killings and abuses during the ongoing separatist conflict.
According to the ministry, the four soldiers have been arrested and an investigation has been launched. It expressed its condolences to the victims’ families.
Last October, a mob lynched a military police officer after he shot and killed a five-year-old girl at a checkpoint. A month later, in similar circumstances, a police officer killed an eight-year-old girl.
Cameroon’s separatist conflict erupted in 2017 after teachers and lawyers in the North and Southwest regions, where English is the predominant language, protested alleged discrimination by the country’s French-speaking majority.
The U.N. says the war has killed several thousand people and forced more than 500,000 to flee their homes.
Schooling and the internet, as well as daily life, have been regularly disrupted in anglophone areas. In total, nearly one million people have been displaced into Nigeria. More than 3,000 people have been killed as a result of the conflict.
It is pertinent to mention that the conflict is spilling over into Nigeria, where the armed forces are struggling to secure the border as they battle insurgents, bandit gangs and separatists of their own elsewhere.
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