Separatists Kidnap Priest in Cameroon, Demand 20 Million Francs CFA Ransom

Separatists in South-West Cameroon have kidnapped a priest in Mamfe Diocese, Monsignor Julius Agbortoko.

Agbortoko was allegedly kidnapped on Sunday by a group of young men in Kokobuma where he had travelled to “for a pastoral visitation and the inauguration of the presbytery of the parish.”

According to a statement by Father Sebastine Sinju, the chancellor of the Diocese of Mamfe, shortly before 6 p.m., around 30 minutes after he had returned to his residence, “some young men who identified themselves as separatist fighters bumped into the Major Seminary compound and made their way straight to the residence of [82-year-old] Bishop Lysinge.

“While there, they noticed the presence of the vicar general, whom they considered younger and stronger than the frail bishop emeritus.

“The said boys who made off with Monsignor Julius Agbortoko at about 6:45 p.m. are asking for a ransom of over 20 million francs CFA [around $36,000].”

Father Sinju appealed for prayers for the vicar general’s release.

“I call on all of you to invoke the One Family Spirit and pray unanimously for his safety and his subsequent release,” he said.

Since the separatist conflict began four years ago, armed rebels fighting for independence of a country known as Ambazonia have repeatedly kidnapped people, including religious leaders.

According to UN figures, thousands have died and more than 700,000 have fled their homes in the conflict.

In May, separatists kidnapped another priest, Father Christopher Eboka, from the Mamfe diocese. He spent 10 days in captivity.

In November 2020, fighters also seized Cardinal Christian Tumi, freeing him a day later. Fon Sehm Mbinglo II, the traditional chief of the Nso tribe, as well as twelve other people were kidnapped along with the cardinal.

Archbishop Cornelius Fontem Esua, emeritus archbishop of Bamenda, and Bishop George Nkuo of Kumbo were abducted by separatists in June and August 2019 respectively.

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