YAOUNDE, Cameroon — More than 30 women were abducted by separatist rebels in Cameroon, for protesting illegal taxes imposed on them by the fighters, said the government on Tuesday. The women were taken from Babanki, a farming village in the Northwest region along the border with Nigeria, said Simon Emil Mooh, the top official in the area.
“We have reliable information that 10 of the women, who are basically farmers and merchants, were tortured with guns and machetes,” he said.
The separatists were collecting monthly payments from children, women and men, imposing taxes on couples before they got married, and forcing families to pay $1,000 to bury their relatives, he said.
The Central African nation has been plagued by fighting since English-speaking separatists launched a rebellion in 2017, with the stated goal of breaking away from the area dominated by the French-speaking majority and setting up an independent, English-speaking state.
The government has accused the separatists of committing atrocities against English-speaking civilians. The conflict has killed more than 6,000 people and displaced more than 760,000 others, according to the International Crisis Group.
Separatist leader Capo Daniel told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the women were abducted in the middle of May. He said they were being punished for allowing themselves to be manipulated by Cameroon’s government. He did not reveal their whereabouts.
Cameroon military says it has deployed troops to free the women.