Gunmen belonging to a separatist militia kidnapped Cardinal Christian Tumi Thursday evening in Cameroon’s Northwest Region only to free him again hours later, local media report.
The kidnappers mounted a roadblock and intercepted Cardinal Tumi, who was traveling with his majesty Sehm Mbinglo, a traditional local leader of the Nso people, and abducted both men along with 11 others who were part of their delegation.
The abduction is believed to be the work of a group of Ambazonian rebel fighters headed by a certain “general” Shao Mao (or Chaomao), who intercepted the traveling band as they returned to the English-speaking zone after a short visit to Foumban in western Cameroon.
While Cardinal Tumi, the 90-year-old emeritus archbishop of Douala was released some hours later, Sehm Mbinglo is still being held by the kidnappers.
“Glory be to God. Cardinal Tumi has been freed by the Separatist fighters. He is fine and in good health,” announced Bishop George Nkuo of the diocese of Kumbo on Friday afternoon.
“The Fon of Nso is still being held by his captors,” Bishop Nkuo said. “They were taken in two different directions but the cardinal has been released. We don’t know where the Fon is at the moment.”
During his captivity, Cardinal Tumi was reportedly questioned but not subjected to torture.
The abduction followed on a recent incident in which unidentified gunmen stormed the campus of Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy in Kumba and fired on the schoolchildren, killing seven and leaving dozens wounded.
“They found the children in class and they opened fire on them,” city sub-prefect Ali Anougou told Reuters regarding the October 24 shooting.
On October 28, Pope Francis condemned the shooting while promising prayers for the victims and their families.
“I participate in the suffering of the families of the young students barbarically killed last Saturday in Kumba, in Cameroon,” the pope said following his weekly general audience in the Vatican.
“I feel great bewilderment at such a cruel and senseless act, which tore the young innocents from life while they were attending lessons at school,” the pontiff added. “May God enlighten hearts, so that similar gestures may never be repeated again and so that the tormented regions of the north-west and south-west of the country may finally find peace!”
“I hope that the weapons will remain silent and that the safety of all and the right of every young person to education and the future can be guaranteed,” Francis concluded. “I express my affection to families, to the city of Kumba and to the whole of Cameroon and I invoke the comfort that only God can give.”
The shooting incident has been attributed to Cameroon’s ongoing “Anglophone crisis” raging in the country’s troubled southwest region.
While no group claimed responsibility for the killings, government authorities laid the blame on the region’s Anglophone separatists, who claim they have been marginalized by the Francophone-dominated government.