Seventy-eight children kidnapped from their boarding school in Cameroon have been freed, school authorities told CNN on Wednesday.
The children — 42 girls and 36 boys – were seized by gunmen with their school principal, a teacher and driver early Monday from the Presbyterian Secondary School in Bamenda, in the northwest of the central African nation. One other girl managed to escape.
After an intensive search, the students were released and returned to the school with their driver at 9:30pm on Tuesday, according to teacher Vumesegah Peter Kogah. A military truck later transported the children to the governor’s office.
The school principal and teacher are still being held captive, Reverend Fonki Samuel Forba, the moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, told CNN.
“Praise God 78 children and the driver have been released,” Rev Forba said. “The principal and one teacher are still with the kidnappers. Let us keep praying. For now we still do not know the kidnappers until we interview the students.”
He said security officers visited the school on Tuesday and took away the vice principal and another member of staff for interrogation.
“They have not yet been released,” he said, adding: “I don’t know why they are keeping them.”
Cameroon’s northwest authorities suspended the movement of all non-emergency vehicles in the search for the children. Military police and helicopters also joined the hunt. No one claimed responsibility for the abductions, but authorities did not rule out the involvement of secessionists fighters, who are waging war in Cameroon’s English-speaking provinces.
Several separatist groups, who denied involvement in the kidnapping, alleged government forces took the students.