More than 30 women kidnapped by separatist rebels for protesting illegal taxes imposed on them have been released, the government said on Friday.
The women were taken earlier this month from Babanki, a farming village in the northwest region along the Nigerian border.
“We take the women to hospitals where they are being treated for injuries and receive psychosocial support,” said Simon Emil Mooh, a local government official.
OVER 30 WOMEN IN CAMEROON KIDNAPPED BY SEPARATIST WARRIORS
The separatists were collecting monthly payments from children, women and men, imposing taxes on couples before they marry and forcing families to pay $1,000 to bury their relatives, he said.
The Central African nation has been plagued by fighting since English-speaking separatists launched an uprising in 2017, with the stated aim of breaking out of the area dominated by the French-speaking majority and establishing an independent English-speaking state.
The government accused the separatists of committing atrocities against English-speaking civilians. The conflict has killed more than 6,000 people and displaced more than 760,000 others, according to the International Crisis Group.
Gunmen in western Cameroon kidnap at least 25 people
Some of the freed women told The Associated Press that they were tortured while in captivity.
“Separatist fighters beat me with their weapons after stripping me,” Vubom Elizabeth told the AP by telephone on Friday from the hospital where she was being treated. The rebels broke her left leg and arm, she said.
Separatist leader Capo Daniel said the women were released after promising to stop protesting, but warned that people would continue to be punished if they continued.
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The Governor of the North West Region of Cameroon, Deben Tchoffo, called on communities to collaborate in ending the atrocities and said the government will do whatever it takes to protect women from separatist brutality.