Separatist militants attacked workers on a state-run rubber plantation in restive southwestern Cameroon, chopping off their fingers because the men had defied an order to stay away from the farms, authorities said Friday.
The attack is the second of its kind in less than a week by the militants, who have responded violently to a government crackdown on separatist activities in the English-speaking parts of the country.
David Epie, a 43-year-old worker at a rubber plantation, says armed men attacked him and three of his co-workers on Thursday evening.
South West governor Bernard Okalia Bilai said he has ordered the military to chase and arrest the separatists blamed for the two recent attacks on rubber plantation workers. On Monday, seven workers lost fingers when militants hacked them off at a plantation in the town of Tiko.
“We cannot allow groups of terrorists to continue to disturb the peace we badly need in this region,” he said. “They are going from farm to farm, terrorizing farmers and workers … they must pay for the crimes they are committing.”
Cameroon was once divided between British and French colonial powers. English speakers make up 20 percent of the population and have long complained of being marginalized by the French majority.
Those grievances erupted into conflict in 2016 when militant separatists took up arms following a series of protests by teachers and lawyers who cited discrimination in their fields of employment.
The militants have vowed to destabilize the English-speaking regions of Cameroon to win independence for the areas. Earlier this week an American missionary died in another restive part of the country after he was shot in the head amid fighting between armed separatists and soldiers in northwestern Cameroon.
The separatists consider the state-run banana, palm oil and rubber plantations in southwestern Cameroon to be legitimate targets. Vehicles, tractors, buildings and warehouses owned by the state’s Cameroon Development Corporation have been torched and some staff members have been kidnapped.
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