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78 students kidnapped by gunmen from Christian school

78 students kidnapped by gunmen from Christian school

Northwest Region Governor Deben Tchoffo said the students abducted Sunday night were ages 11-17, and they were taken from Nkwen, a village near the regional capital, Bamenda, along with school staff that included the principal.

The mission school's discipline mistress, Ms Maureen Njei, said the abducted students were both boys and girls.

Communication Minister Issa Bakary Tchiroma told AFP news agency that "all 79 students have been released", but did not give any further details.

A video uploaded to social media showed the kidnapped children and the alleged kidnappers, calling themselves "Amba boys" in reference to the breakaway Ambazonia state that the separatists have been trying to create.

While such mass kidnappings were previously unknown in Cameroon, the abduction came after two major such incidents in neighbouring Nigeria, where the Islamist group Boko Haram snatched more than 200 schoolgirls from the Borno state town of Chibok in April 2014.

The school's website says that the student body numbers more than 700, drawn from "all the religious and linguistic origins of Cameroon".

There have been other kidnappings from schools in the region, but this is the largest number kidnapped at once.

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Separatists have imposed curfews and closed down schools as part of their protest. President Paul Biya has been in power since 1982.

Separatists have since attacked troops and police, boycotted and torched schools and attacked other state symbols, prompting a brutal official crackdown.

In the video, abductors can be seen forcing young male students to identify themselves, their parents and say they have been kidnapped by Amba Boys and they don't know where they are. The video could not be independently verified, but parents have said on social media that they recognize their children in the video.

One of them shouted, how many times have we asked you not to work here again.

Biya was credited with 71.3 percent of the vote, although the ballot was marred by allegations of widespread fraud, low voter turnout and violence.

The children were taken from a Presbyterian school near the city of Bamenda, which is at the center of an Anglophone separatist movement. "Cameroon was colonised by Germany and then split into British and French areas after World War One", the BBC explains. The separatists claim that they have been marginalised in Biya's regime.

Most of the students kidnapped, were students of Form Five preparing for the GCE O' Level and have appeared in a video posted online by pro separatist activists.