By Aurore Bonny
KUMBA, CAMEROON (AA) – At least six children are dead Sunday and several seriously injured after an attack by gunmen with machetes in a classroom in southwestern Cameroon, according to media reports.
"[Six] children have so far been dead and 16 others under treatment following a horrific attack by armed men in a school in Fiango, Kumba in the South West Region," according to Cameroon National Radio and Television.
The victims, who were mostly younger than 12, have been evacuated to Limbe and Buea for intensive care.
The attackers disembarked at a primary school in the Fiango district of Kumba on Saturday and opened fire before fleeing on motorbikes.
Prime Minister Dion Ngute, under instructions from President Paul Biya, rushed to organize a meeting to assist affected families.
"Attacking innocent children and unarmed people, reflects the cowardice and barbarity of the assailants,” said Ngute. “I strongly condemn this act of rare cruelty perpetrated on innocent students whose only crime is to have exercised their right to education.”
He urged "all Cameroonians to firmly oppose these atrocities" while announcing that "the republic will not bend in the face of terror.”
Politicians and international leaders condemned the massacre.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union, said that "there are no words of grievances nor condemnation strong enough to articulate his full horror at the brutal attack.”
It is "a violation of international human rights and humanitarian law protecting civilian populations. The perpetrators of these acts will have to face justice," said the European Union delegation in Cameroon.
The French Ambassador to Cameroon Cristophe Guilhou said "the perpetrators will have to be brought to justice and condemned" and all efforts must now be made to put an end to the conflict in the northwest.
Cameroon has been affected by a so-called Anglophone crisis in the northwest and southwestern since 2016.
A secessionist movement is calling for separation and the creation of an independent state called Ambazonia — a request the government does not intend to entertain.
Multiple deadly attacks have occurred in the English-speaking areas and the army is fighting daily in those parts of the country.
After the attack on the school, several opinion leaders and observers have accused Ambazona promoters of being behind various massacres and have joined forces on social media with #Endambazonianterrorism and #Endanglophonecrisis.
Others who recalled an attack in Ngarbuh, when 23 civilians were killed Feb. 14, and the army was blamed by national and international NGOs, has cautioned Cameroonians before making accusations about secessionists being responsible.