Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Yaounde, Cameroon — Clashes between army and Anglophone separatists claimed several lives in the town of Kumba in Cameroon’s troubled Southwest Region province, sources said Thursday.

"Several people, including civilians, have been killed in Kumba since Monday," a source close to the town’s medical services said.

"These people died during various army operations" after Kumba’s police superintendent was killed on Sunday, the source said.

The murder has been blamed on separatists who want secession from the French-speaking bulk of Cameroon.

"There were exchanges of gunfire for much of [Wednesday] night," one witness said.

"I heard gunshots all night long. Things have quietened down, but people are beginning to leave town," said a teacher, who asked not be named.

The security situation has been tense for days in Southwest Region, which along with the Northwest Region was once under British rule before joining Francophone Cameroon in 1961 after independence.

At least three police officers have been killed since Sunday at Kumba and in the regional capital, Buea. For the first time since Anglophone protest over perceived neglect by the central government erupted at the end of 2016, fighting took place on Monday in Buea, a city patrolled by a large military force.

Defence Minister Joseph Beti Assomo was paying an official visit on Thursday to the Southwest Region, where the separatist crisis became an armed struggle by radical foes of President Paul Biya’s regime late in 2017.