Kidnappers free last of 80 Cameroon schoolboys

DOUALA (Reuters) - Kidnappers freed on Monday the last of about 80 schoolboys taken hostage last week in a raid on a school in west Cameroon, said a church minister who negotiated their release and a regional official.

Armed men seized the children, their principal and other adults in Bamenda, a center of the country’s troubled English-speaking region where separatists are fighting to form a breakaway republic called Ambazonia.

Most were freed last week, but two boys, the principal and a dormitory warden remained hostage until Monday.

“I can confirm all the hostages are free,” said Louis Begne, a regional government spokesman, without providing details on their release. Samuel Fonki, the minister of the Presbyterian Church who negotiated the release, confirmed that everyone had been freed.

The military and Fonki blamed the abduction on anglophone separatists. Stopping children going to school is a favored tactic of the armed insurgents, who say schools are being used to spread government propaganda.

A spokesman for the separatists denied this and said that the Cameroonian army carried out the kidnapping.

Reporting By Josiane Kouagheu; Writing by Edward McAllister; editing by David Stamp