Cameroon’s army yesterday denied opposition charges that it had massacred villagers in a troubled anglophone region, blaming instead an “unfortunate accident” caused by an explosion of fuel during a firefight.
Up to 22 civilians, 14 of them children, died in the incident on Friday, according to the United Nations, deaths which opposition parties blamed on members of the armed forces. But army spokesman Colonel Cyrille Atonfack Guemo described the allegations as “duplicitous.”
An army investigation, he said, found that the deaths happened after fuel was set ablaze during a gunfight with anglophone separatists. Five civilians, a woman and four children died, and “seven terrorists” were “neutralised,” Atonfack told AFP in Libreville by phone.
The deaths occurred in the village of Ntumbo in Cameroon’s Northwest Region, one of two English-speaking regions that have been grappling with separatist violence since October 2017.
More than 3,000 people have died and at least 700,000 have fled their homes.
“It was quite simply an unfortunate accident, the collateral result of security operations in the region,” Atonfack said in a statement.
He said four soldiers and two gendarmes had been carrying out nighttime reconnaissance on foot near a home that had been “transformed into a fortress” with a stockpile of weapons.
They came under heavy fire, and exchanges caused “several containers of fuel to explode, followed by a blaze which spread several neighbouring homes,” Atonfack said “This fire caused five casualties, a woman and four children, (a figure that is) far off from what is doing the rounds on social media,” he added.