Troops and armed men on Wednesday exchanged fire in Buea, the capital of a Cameroonian region hit by separatist violence and a host city for teams in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), military and aid sources said.
“Separatists attacked several districts in Buea. Army reinforcements arrived and responded,” a senior military officer reached by phone told AFP on Thursday.
“It happened after the Malian squad had finished training — it did not have an impact on the training session.”
The authorities made no comment on the incident.
“There were heavy exchanges of fire between troops and separatists,” Agbor Balla, a lawyer who heads an NGO called the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa, said by phone.
“Panic grew as the separatists moved towards the town center,” Balla said.
He said one person “wearing civilian clothes” died in the exchange, but this toll was not immediately confirmed by other sources.
Buea is the capital of the Southwest Region, which with the adjacent Northwest Region has been rocked by violence since 2017 when anglophone militants declared independence from the majority French-speaking country.
The central government in Yaounde responded with a crackdown.
Both the separatists and government forces have been accused of atrocities in the fighting, which has killed more than 3,000 people and forced over 700,000 to flee their homes.
Armed groups are regularly accused of abducting, killing or injuring civilians whom they accuse of “collaborating” with Cameroonian authorities.
Armed groups had warned before the start of AFCON last Sunday that they planned to disrupt the month-long tournament.
Teams in Group F — Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania and Gambia — train in Buea and play in the coastal resort of Limbe.