Seventy-eight students abducted by gunmen this week in a troubled English-speaking region of Cameroon have been freed, the country’s communications minister said.
“All 78 students have been released,” said Issa Bakary Tchiroma, without giving details of the circumstances under which they were set free.
However, it is reported that a principal and one teacher are still being held by the armed men that took them, a priest conducting negotiations said.
Earlier the number of kidnapped children were put at 79, but later said one of their number was in fact a teacher, who remained with the kidnappers.
Fonki and the Cameroonian military have accused anglophone separatists of carrying out the kidnappings, but a separatist spokesman denied involvement.
In an inauguration speech following last month’s election to extend his 36-year rule, President Paul Biya told the separatists to lay down their arms or face the full force of the law, offering no concessions to them.
Anglophone secessionists have imposed curfews and closed schools as part of their protest against Biya’s French-speaking government and its perceived marginalization of the English-speaking minority, although they had never kidnapped children before.