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Cameroon abduction: Search under way for kidnapped children

Seventy-nine children and three staff were kidnapped by gunmen on Monday.

Authorities in Cameroon have launched a major search-and-rescue operation after gunmen kidnapped 79 students and three members of school staff.

Deben Tchoffo, governor of the restive North West Region, said students from a Presbyterian school in Nkwen village near Bamenda were abducted on Monday along with their principal, a teacher and a driver.

An army spokesperson blamed separatists for the kidnapping. A separatist spokesperson denied involvement and said government soldiers carried it out, as a ploy to discredit them.

Samuel Fonki, a minister of the Presbyterian Church, said he had been mediating with the kidnappers for the children's release. He also said separatists were responsible.

On Tuesday, about 200 parents gathered outside the school, waiting to hear if their children were among those who had been abducted or had remained unharmed at the school.

Authorities denied parents access to the school, according to six parents and a security guard who spoke to Reuters news agency.

A video purportedly of the kidnapped children was released on social media by "Amba boys", a reference to the state of Ambazonia that armed separatists are trying to establish in Cameroon's northwest and southwest regions, The Associated Press news agency reported.

In the video, the kidnappers force several students to give their names and the names of their parents. The children say they were kidnapped by the Amba boys, and they do not know where they are being held.

"We shall only release you after the struggle. You will be going to school now here," say the men suspected to be the kidnappers.
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