Armed fighters have stormed a town in south west Cameroon close to the training base used by the Mali and Gambia teams at the Africa Cup of Nations.
The Mali team has suspended training prior to their match against Tunisia in nearby Limbe this afternoon, according to the Cameroon News Agency. Mali are due to play Tunisia in the opening game of Group F at the Afcon, this afternoon [Wednesday].
Two people are reported to have died following an exchange of gunfire between separatists and government forces at the central market in the town of Buea and five people have been injured, say local reports.
The west of Cameroon has been racked by an escalating conflict between the local English-speaking population and the government of the largely French-speaking country.
Sportsmail reported last month how the tournament mascot, Mola the Lion, was forced to wear a bullet proof vest and was escorted by heavily armed soldiers when he visited the region to promote the competition.
Armoured vehicles and heavily manned army checkpoints have been prominent in the town in recent weeks, with security checks on entry points to nearby Limbe.
‘The Malian team has suspended training and left the Molyko stadium,’ the Cameroon News Agency, reported today.
Separatists, who have objected to hosting games in the west of the country – an area they call Ambazonia – have threatened violence. They have claimed responsibility for the attacks.
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One of the host cities, Limbe, is within the westernregion and just 13 miles from Buea.
‘Two civilians (men) have been found dead at the Buea Central market following exchanges of gunshots between Ambazonia and government forces,’ the local news agency added.
In a video posted online, armed men can be seen moving through the streets and there appears to be audible gunfire.
Blaise Chamango, a human rights worker in Buea, for the organisation, Human is Right, told Sportsmail: ‘There were gun shots this morning around the town. We also got information there was an improvised explosive device at the market. The [separatist] groups and security forces were fighting in the area.
‘The non state groups want to create the impression that nothing should take place in the south west region [of Cameroon during the Afcon].’
The fighting in Buea comes amid an outbreak of violence coinciding with the opening of the Afcon in Cameroon. In a separate incident, a lawyer and senator, Harry Kemende, was reported to have been shot and killed in the neighbouring North West region.
Rebecca Tinsley, a representative of the Cameroon Peace and Justice Group, said the developments during the showpiece tournament were a concern, and described Mr Kemende as a ‘voice of moderation and peace’.
‘It is a sign of what is to come, this is just the beginning,’ said Ms Tinsley, whose group has verified reports in the country. ‘This is the moment the world is looking at Cameroon, we are very concerned.’
‘It has got to lead to the Government of Cameroon to offer a ceasefire and a roadmap towards peace negotiations. If only they would do that the tournament could carry on in peace.’
Source: Thanks msn.com