Separatist rebels killed 15 Cameroonian soldiers and civilians in two bombings in the past month, authorities said on Monday, marking the start of a new phase of a conflict that has lasted for nearly five years and decimated more than 3,000 lives.
In western Cameroon, insurgents are seeking to form a breakaway state called Ambazonia. Anglophone civil rights protests in 2017 led to their conflict with the military. Military repression of the protests led to their fighting the military in 2018.
It began with occasional raids by secessionists on police and army outposts, but has now developed into a protracted battle that has ravaged large parts of the oil- and coffee-producing region.
A military convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED) on Sept. 12 in Kumbo, a town in the Northwest region. Meanwhile, on Sept. 16, armed men attacked a convoy near Bamessing by throwing IEDs and rockets, before coming under heavy fire.
According to a statement by the Defence Ministry, the use of sophisticated weapons represents “a paradigm shift” in the fighting, with the militants getting their hardware from “violent fundamentalist groups” outside of Cameroon.
No comment was available from the armed groups. Cameroon’s west borders Nigeria, home to violent islamist groups like Boko Haram and other unaffiliated bandits.
Cameroon’s army has been unable to regain control despite military offensives.
According to a recent United Nations report, armed groups have taken control of most of the main access roads to Bamenda, the capital of the Northwest region.
Drugs are running out at health facilities, and violent crime is on the rise. A Canadian working for the International Committee of the Red Cross was injured during an attack in Bamenda on Aug. 22 and died from his injuries one day later.