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November Today in Terrorism

November 20, 2018: Separatists kidnap students in Cameroon

On November 20, 2018 unidentified gunmen kidnaped nine students and a teacher at Lords Bilingual School in Kumba, Cameroon.

KUMBA, CAMEROON – To what extent can those seeking to form an independent state go to achieve their goals?

At any given time there is bound to be some group somewhere on our pale blue dot that is not happy with the current political status quo. These individuals are linked by any number of things – language, culture, religion, ethnicity, etc. – and are seeking to go it alone, i.e. achieve independence.

On rare occasions this goal is gained peacefully (think the break up of Czechoslovakia into the Czech and Slovak republics back in 1993: it was so bland it is often called the ‘velvet divorce’). On far too many others it occurs only after much shedding of blood (think the American Revolution of the 1770s).

For those on the side of independence there are choices to make. Is violence ok? If so, whom can we target? What if innocent civilians are caught in the crossfire? What about women and children?

Anyone up for some ‘collateral damage’? (Photo: By Emanuel Leutze, 1851 – The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Public Domain)

While some deaths are all but inevitable in the course of a war some actions are nevertheless well beyond the accepted norm. Take today’s featured attack.

On this day in 2018

Unidentified gunmen kidnaped nine students and a teacher at Lords Bilingual School in Kumba, Cameroon. The incident occurred in the southwestern region of the country, one known to house anglophone separatists who have been engaged in a low level conflict with the francophone majority for several years. The insurgents want to carve out a homeland called Ambazonia.

Dear Parents of Ambazonia, I plead with you not to send your children to school. The terrorist occupying forces are walking within our territory and shooting rampantly […] Do not send your child to school today and start crying tomorrow, you will have only yourself to blame.

General Efang, ‘Supreme Commander’ of the Ambazonian Defence Forces (ADF)

In the end, the Cameroonian military discovered the kidnaper’s camp, killed two hostage takers and seized one: two more were killed the following day. Three of those seized were rescued while the other seven made their own escape.

While the perpetrators were never formally identified they were most probably Ambazonian separatists. Since when is taking schoolchildren for a ’cause’ ok?

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By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. and Director of the National Security programme at the University of Ottawa’s Professional Development Institute (PDI). Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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