81 police, soldiers killed in Cameroon's anglophone crisis: govt

Anglophone separatists in Cameroon have killed 81 members of the security forces and more than 100 civilians in their months-long campaign for independence, according to a government report obtained by AFP on Wednesday.

Seventy-four soldiers and seven police have been killed by separatists since clashes erupted in the two regions in late 2017, it said.

It added that more than 100 civilians had been killed "over the past 12 months," and at least 120 schools - a favourite target of the radicals - had been torched.

The document also calls for an emergency humanitarian aid plan worth $21m, funded from "the state budget, an appeal to national solidarity and contributions from international partners".

The report coincides with a blaze of international criticism over the government's crackdown in the Northwest and Southwest Regions, home to most of the English-speakers who account for about a fifth of a mainly French-speaking population of 22 million.

On June 12, Amnesty International issued a report saying the security forces had carried out "unlawful killings, destruction of private property, arbitrary arrests and torture" since late 2017.

The operation, far from resolving the crisis, had "empowered... more radical and violent movements," it said.

The report was dismissed by the Cameroonian government as "crude lies" and "part of a strategy of harassment and destabilisation of our country".

And in May, the US ambassador in Yaounde, Peter Barlerin, sparked a diplomatic furore by saying the armed forces had carried out "targeted killings".

He also said the separatists had carried out murders of gendarmes and other acts of violence, a fact noted by Amnesty which said "at least" 44 members of the security forces had been killed.

The presence of a large English-speaking minority dates back to the colonial period.

It was once a German colony that after World War I was divided between Britain and France.

The French colony gained independence gained in 1960, becoming Cameroon. The following year, the British-ruled Southern Cameroons was amalgamated into it, giving rise to the Northwest and Southwest Regions.

In 2016, years of resentment at perceived discrimination culminated in protests, which escalated in the face of a government refusal to make concessions.

Violence surged in late 2017 after radicals declared an independent state - an entity named Ambazonia that has not been recognised internationally - and launched an armed campaign, which was met with a crackdown.

The overall toll among civilians remains unclear.

According to the International Crisis Group think-tank, at least 120 civilians and 43 members of the security forces have been killed since the end of 2016.

The UN says 160,000 people have been internally displaced and 20,000 have sought refuge in neighbouring Nigeria.

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