Armed separatists kidnap 78 children and headteacher in Cameroon

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There have been other kidnappings from schools in the region, but this is the largest number kidnapped at once. "We have asked our military to do everything and bring back the kids alive".

The students are aged 11-17 and the school principal was among the staff members abducted, he said.

Local governor Adolphe Lele L'Afrique Tchoffo Deben placed the blame on local English separatist militias, though no one group has claimed responsibility at this point.

The AP said the video shows the kidnappers forcing several boys to say their names and the names of their parents.

The men who identify themselves on the video as the kidnappers say they will only release the children when they achieve what they want.

Another source said that 79 of the kidnapped were children.

"The search for the hostages has been launched, every man has been called in", a government source said after he emerged from a crisis meeting.

Since a Government crackdown on peaceful demonstrations in 2017, the movement has gathered momentum.

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Hundreds have been killed amid the violence in the past year.

The area is now embroiled in an ugly dispute, with separatists fighting for a breakaway state. They have mounted attacks against civilians who do not support their cause.

On 19 October, five students of the Atiela Bilingual High School were taken by unidentified gunmen.

"These appalling abductions show just how the general population is paying the highest price as violence escalates in the Anglophone region", said Samira Daoud, Amnesty International deputy regional director for West and Central Africa.

The school's website says that the student body numbers more than 700, drawn from "all the religious and linguistic origins of Cameroon".

Last week separatist militants attacked workers on a state-run rubber plantation in southwestern Cameroon, chopping off their fingers because the men had defied an order to stay away from the farms. Government forces have fought separatists in Cameroon's North West and South West regions.

The turmoil in Cameroon comes after President Paul Biya won a seventh term last month in an election the United States said was marked by irregularities.

A teacher at the school described what she saw as she entered the principal's office after students had been taken from different dormitories.

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