By Amindeh Blaise Atabong
YAOUNDE (Reuters) -About 30 villagers were killed in weekend attacks in the Akwaya district of Cameroon’s South West region in what local sources described as a feud over land between neighbouring communities aggravated by separatist insurgents acting as hired guns.
Anglophone insurgents began fighting the Cameroonian military in the South West and North West regions in 2017 after civilian protests calling for greater representation for the country’s English-speaking minority were violently repressed.
The Presbyterian Church in Cameroon said on Monday that the conflict in Akwaya had been escalating since April, with a series of tit-for-tat attacks by members of the neighbouring communities of Ballin and Mavass over a swathe of farmland.
The church said this weekend’s violence began when attackers from Mavass, backed up by hired gunmen, stormed a funeral ceremony on Saturday. It said the violence continued on Sunday.
“Over 30 people were killed including children, girls, men, women and old people. Some were beheaded,” the church said in a statement, denouncing the attacks as “inhuman”. The statement included photographs of corpses lying on the ground.
The Akwaya district medical officer, Enow Daniel Kewong, told Reuters 26 bodies had been found so far and people were still missing. He added that the village’s Integrated Health Centre had been burnt down.
The member of parliament for the district, Aka Martin Tyoga, said he had been told 32 people had been buried in a mass grave, including six Nigerians.
The local military authorities could not immediately be reached for comment.
A blurring of the lines between different types of conflict has become increasingly common across the English-speaking regions of Cameroon, where law and order has largely broken down, according to civil society groups.
Earlier, Human Rights Watch said separatists in the two regions had increased the number of violent actions this year, including killings, kidnappings and attacks on schools.
(Writing by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Alex Richardson and Alison Williams)