3 Cameroon soldiers charged with murder in Anglophone village massacre
Three soldiers have been charged with murder in the Ngarbuh village massacre in western Cameroon, where at least 23 civilians were killed during an operation against Anglophone separatist forces in February.
"The three Cameroonian soldiers have been placed in provisional detention in Yaounde military prison," army spokesman Colonel Cyrille Atonfack Guemo told AFP news agency, adding that they had been charged with murder.
At least 23 civilians, including 15 children and two pregnant women, were killed on 14 February in Ngarbuh. The United Nations described it as “a shocking episode in the ongoing crisis that has afflicted the country's Northwest and Southwest regions for the past three years".
The Cameroon authorities initially denied the soldiers' role in the killings, describing allegations against security forces as “fake”. They claimed the deaths resulted from an “unfortunate accident” when fuel containers exploded in the crossfire between separatists and troops.
But on 22 April, a report by a commission of inquiry singled out three “uncontrolled” soldiers – a sergeant, gendarme and private first class. It described how they had killed civilians and then tried to conceal their actions by starting the fires.
The investigation prompted the government to do a U-turn: the soldiers were arrested and put before a military tribunal accused of killing at least three women and 10 children with the help of a local vigilante committee.
In addition to being charged with the murder, the three soldiers are also accused of disobeying orders, destruction of property and arson, the army said on Thursday.
Anglophone separatist groups have long called for secession from the French-speaking majority government in Yaounde, but fighting has escalated since 2017 and a self-declaration of independence.
The government has clamped down on Anglophone separatists and close to 2,000 people have been killed and over 500,000 displaced, according to the United Nations.