An accidental explosion killed a woman and four children in Ngarbuh village of the Anglophone region of Northwest Cameroun when the military attacked separatist camps in the area.
Camerounian army spokesperson Cyrille Nguemo said in a statement on Monday that the government forces carried out an attack on “fortified camps” of armed separatists in the village on Friday and separatists retaliated with “heavy fire”.
“The fighting continued until the explosion of several fuel containers, followed by a violent fire that affected some neighbouring homes.
“This fire left five victims, including a woman and four children dead,” Nguemo said in the statement.
A separatist leader under anonymity claimed some 40 civilians were killed during the military operation, and “there was never any confrontation between government soldiers and our fighters (armed separatists)”.
Nguemo said that the allegations by separatists were false and stressed that “it is quite simply an unfortunate accident, a collateral consequence of the ongoing security operations in the region.”
Villagers who survived the attack on Monday that a pregnant woman and several children including two toddlers were among those killed in last Friday’s incidents that also torched nine houses.
An “in-depth investigation” has been carried out on the “regrettable incident”, the Cameroun Army spokesperson said.
Cameroun has increased attacks on separatists in the two Anglophone regions of Northwest and Southwest since President Paul Biya promised in December 2019 to combat separatists “who persist in going down the wrong road and continue to use violence”.
According to the UN, there have been more than 700,000 refugees and internally displaced persons since separatists began clashing with government forces in 2017 to establish an independent nation they call “Ambazonia” in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon.