June 20, 2018 / 8:15 PM / a month ago

Separatists have killed 84 troops since Sept. 2017 - Cameroon

YAOUNDE (Reuters) - Armed separatists in English-speaking regions of Cameroon have killed over 80 soldiers and police since their insurgency began in September last year, the government said in a report on Wednesday that suggests the conflict is intensifying.

What began in late 2016 as a peaceful movement calling for greater representation of the mostly French-speaking country’s Anglophone minority morphed into conflict after a heavy-handed government response, in which troops shot at civilians from helicopter gunships and burned villages.

That bolstered support for some in Anglophone Cameroon who want to form a new state called Ambazonia.

The unrest in the oil- and cocoa-producing Southwest and Northwest regions often involves hit-and-run attacks by insurgents on the army.

“Statistics as of 11 June 2018 showed that 123 attacks had been carried out claiming 84 lives, including 32 soldiers, 42 gendarmes, seven police officers, two prison warders and one eco-guard,” said the report, presented by Prime Minister Philemon Yang at a news conference in Yaounde.

In February, an army spokesman told Reuters separatists had killed 22 soldiers and policemen in the previous five months.

No figures are available for casualties on the separatist side, but its leaders says there have been some.

The fighting has forced tens of thousands of civilians to flee over the border into Nigeria. In the report, the government pledged 12.7 billion CFA francs ($21.7 million) over 18 months to help nearly 75,000 people who have been displaced across the two Anglophone regions.

President Paul Biya seeks reelection in October polls, after leading the country for more than three decades.

Reporting by Josiane Kouagheu; Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Andrew Roche

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