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Cameroon army killed nine civilians in anglophone west — HRW

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused the Cameroon army on Thursday of killing nine civilians, including a six-year-old girl, in a raid last month on a village in the troubled English-speaking west of the country.

The accusation relates to an incident on January 10 that the army, which is fighting armed separatists in the region, says was a fight with “terrorists.” It dismissed the HRW report as “biased… (and) distorted.”

“Witnesses said that over 50 soldiers… entered Mautu on foot at about 2 pm on January 10 and started shooting indiscriminately as people fled,” HRW said.

“The witnesses said that soldiers killed nine people, including a 50-year-old woman and a six-year-old girl, and went house-to-house searching for separatist fighters and weapons, threatening residents and looting people’s belongings,” it said in a statement.

The same day, several videos and photos were posted on social media including one showing a woman and child clearly being shot dead. Another showed several men lying on the ground.

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HRW said the footage “matched the victims filmed with the descriptions of the victims known to have been killed” and concluded “that the videos were captured within hours of the attack.”

On January 11 the army denied killing any civilians at Mautu, saying it had carried out a “preventive” raid on “terrorist groups’ positions.”

“Armed individuals… immediately opened fire” on the soldiers, who “inflicted an appropriate response on them,” army spokesman Cyrille Serge Atonfack Guemo said at the time, adding that the army acted in “strict respect of the rules of engagement.”

“Several terrorists were neutralised, others were wounded or put to flight,” he said.

In a written response to AFP on Thursday, the spokesman lashed HRW’s report as a “biased account… a usual jumble of selected snippets of distorted facts.”

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France, the influential former colonial power, on January 12 issued a statement to “condemn the attack” at Mautu, which it said had claimed the lives of eight civilians. It did not apportion blame.

Three days later, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also highlighted the incident and said he “noted the government’s will to open an inquiry.”

The army has promised to carry out a “detailed investigation” but this has yet to be made public.

– Bloodshed –

Mautu lies in the Southwest Region, which with the neighbouring Northwest Region is home to Cameroon’s English-speaking minority.

In 2017, resentment over years of perceived discrimination at the hands of the francophone majority resulted in a declaration of independence by anglophone radicals.

Their self-declared state, Ambazonia, has not been recognised internationally, and the central government in Yaounde has responded with a crackdown.

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Civilians are often caught up in the fighting, suffering at the hands of both sides, international aid groups and the UN say.

So far more than 3,000 people have died and more than 700,000 have fled their homes during the conflict.

On December 17, a trial opened in Yaounde of three soldiers accused of killing 13 civilians in the village of Ngarbuh, in the Northwest Region, in February 2020.

The government initially dismissed any responsibility for civilian deaths.

It blamed fatalities on an “unfortunate accident” that occurred when a fuel tank exploded in a fire fight between soldiers and “terrorists.”

The UN says 23 civilians were killed in that incident, including 15 children and two pregnant women.

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Ivory Coast police rescue 68 children working on cocoa farms

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FILE PHOTO: A farmer prepares to cut cocoa pods at a cocoa farm in Agboville, Ivory Coast April 24, 2017. REUTERS/LUC GNAGO

Police in Ivory Coast have rescued 68 children working on cocoa farms, most of whom were trafficked from neighbouring Burkina Faso, authorities said.

The West African country is the world’s top cocoa producer and has close to 1 million children working in the sector despite years of efforts to end child labour.

At a care centre in the southwestern region of Soubre, one of the rescued children told Reuters his father had brought him from Burkina Faso at the age of 13 to work on his uncle’s cocoa plantation and had left him there.

“I’ve been working in cocoa for two years, since I arrived in Ivory Coast,” said the shy Nounfo, who was found by the police splitting open cocoa pods with a machete.

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Police said Nounfo’s family links were not clear to the purported uncle who was among about 25 suspected traffickers arrested and now facing up to 10 years in prison.

The issue could weigh on exports to the European Union, which is considering new laws to ban the import of commodities linked to human rights abuses.

The operation involved around 100 police officers last Thursday and Friday and was the first since 2014 in Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt.

More action is hampered by a lack of funding, said Luc Zaka, a police commissioner in charge of the special unit on child labour.

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“We lack the means to be more efficient and to achieve the expected results, but each time we are in the field we manage to save children and arrest suspects,” he said.

Brahima Coulibaly, a member of the national monitoring committee on child labour, said authorities will conduct operations in another region in a few months.

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UGM: Governor imposes curfew from 7pm-6am in Rivers

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Nyesom Wike

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has imposed a new curfew aimed at curbing attacks on government forces by those described as “Unknown Gunmen (UGM).”

Seven policemen were killed last week Friday in a new attack by unidentified gunmen who had killed at least 12 government forces in attacks on police formations.

“As a further step towards enhancing our collective safety we have reviewed the existing night time curfew across the 23 Local Government Areas, which will now start from 7 p.m. and end at 6 a.m. until further notice from tomorrow 11th May 2021,” said Wike in a state-wide broadcast on Monday.

The governor also ordered law enforcement agencies to deal decisively with any person or group who violates or attempts to violate the curfew.

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Meanwhile, government forces blocked all roads leading to their facilities across the state, causing a traffic jam that left many people stranded and forced to walk a long distance before reaching their places of business and homes.

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ISIS imposes taxes, recruit children in northern Nigeria

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"The Islamic State is plundering parts of Nigeria now, they manage to impose the Islamic tax of Zakāt at least in some regions at this point"

Images, posted on social media on Saturday, show members of the Islamic State terrorist group collecting taxes and recruiting children in northern Nigeria.

Children are recruited by terrorists under the guise of a humanitarian gesture by distributing them each N500 (five hundred naira), as well as food, shows images posted on Twitter by Pieter Van Ostaeyen, a Belgium reporter, analyst and historian.

“The Islamic State is plundering parts of Nigeria now, they manage to impose the Islamic tax of Zakāt at least in some regions at this point,” Ostaeyan said in Saturday’s report, which confirmed reports that earlier claimed that ISIS had infiltrated Nigeria.

The United States, alongside others, had said that Islamic State was trying to infiltrate the oil-rich African country already being ravaged by Boko Haram, ISWAP and Fulani herders.

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