Cameroonian security forces have killed five civilian men, one of whom was beheaded, in an attack on a village in a restive anglophone region, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday.
The five were either killed execution-style or shot as they attempted to flee from forces raiding their neighbourhood on April 4 in Meluf, near an armed separatist camp in Northwest Region, HRW said.
Three of the bodies were later discovered mutilated, including two found with their hands tied and their genitals cut off.
“Government forces are committing abuses against people living in the Anglophone areas of Cameroon,” said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement.
“Cameroon’s civilian and military authorities should make it clear that these types of abuses will not be tolerated and hold commanders responsible.”
AFP contacted the army, which did not give an immediate response.
The rights group said Cameroonian soldiers, gendarmes and members of the elite Rapid Intervention Brigade carried out the attack.
Multiple witnesses told HRW that security forces entered the village on foot and with military vehicles, including at least three military trucks and a bulldozer.
At least 80 homes were forcibly entered, some were looted, and seven burned down, HRW said.
“We woke up to the sound of guns. A soldier broke the window, and asked my aunt where the Amba Boys (anglophone separatists) were hiding. She told him that she didn’t know, so he shot her in the right arm,” one 45-year-old resident told HRW, whose uncle was killed.
The NGO also reported an increase in attacks on health facilities and against medical staff.
According to HRW, the army attacked a hospital in Mbingo on April 1, killing a 32-year-old woman and wounding another person while searching for separatists.
Conflict in Cameroon, a majority French-speaking nation, broke out in October 2017 when anglophone militants declared an independent state in the Northwest and Southwest Regions.
The International Crisis Group has said the death toll since the start of the fighting has topped 500 for civilians and more than 200 for members of the security forces.
Around 437 000 people have fled the fighting, according to the United Nations.
English-speakers, who account for about a fifth of Cameroon’s population of 24 million, have chafed for years at perceived discrimination in education, law and economic opportunities at the hands of the francophone majority.
The self-declared entity, the “Republic of Ambazonia,” which has been named after the local Ambas Bay, has not been recognised internationally.