Separatist rebels on Wednesday killed a soldier during an attack on Cameroon’s western city of Buea, the home base for four soccer teams competing in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), a senior militant and a human rights lawyer said.
Africa’s premier soccer tournament kicked off on Sunday amid security concerns, especially in western regions where a separatist insurgency seeking to establish a breakaway state called Ambazonia has carried out deadly attacks on civilians and the army since 2017.
Mali, Gambia, Tunisia and Mauritania from Group F are all based in Buea in the South West region, where many clashes between the army and the rebels have occurred.
The soldier was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) during the attack in which rebels exchanged gunfire with the army inside the city, said Cho Ayaba, the head of the rebel Ambazonia Defence Forces.
“Our forces launched an IED attack that killed one soldier. A sister force known as the Mountain Lions also engaged the military in an hour-long combat,” Ayaba told Reuters.
The aim, Ayaba said, was to disrupt preparations for two Group F games that are being played on Wednesday in Limbe, a coastal city about an hour’s drive south from Buea.
Ayaba’s account was confirmed by Akem Kelvin Nkwain, a human rights lawyer based in Buea.
Nkwain said that a taxi driver and a passenger were also killed when they were caught in the crossfire near the central market. Reuters was not able to independently verify this. An army spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.