Priest abducted in anglophone Cameroon is freed

Cameroon Map of Cameroon locating English-speaking regions.  By Valentina BRESCHI AFP
SEP 2, 2021 LISTEN
Map of Cameroon locating English-speaking regions. By Valentina BRESCHI (AFP)

A Catholic priest who was kidnapped by separatists last weekend in Cameroon's troubled anglophone region has been released, his diocese said on Thursday.

"After three days' captivity, we are pleased to announce that our brother, priest, Monsignor Julius Agbortoko, was released without any ransom being paid," the diocese of Mamfe said in a statement.

Agbortoko was seized on Sunday by "youths who identified themselves as separatist fighters", it had said on Monday.

The kidnappers were demanding a ransom of more than 20 million CFA francs ($36,000, 31,000 euros), it said.

Western Cameroon is in the grip of a nearly four-old conflict launched by separatists who have declared an independent state in the predominantly francophone country.

More than 3,500 people have been killed and over 700,000 have fled their homes. Rights groups says abuses have been committed by both separatists and the armed forces.

The militants frequently carry out abductions, typically releasing the victim in exchange for a ransom. The church statement did not explain why Agbortoko had been freed without a payment having been made.

The presence of the anglophone regions in Cameroon derives from the colonial era.

The former German possession of Cameroon was partitioned after World War I between Britain and France.

In 1961, part of the British territory, the Southern Cameroons, joined Cameroon after it gained independence from France.

Anglophones have repeatedly complained about perceived discrimination at the hands of the francophone majority.

Demands for reform and local autonomy were rejected by Cameroon's veteran president, Paul Biya, culminating in the separatists' declaration of independence on August 1 2017.