Beua – Three explosions at the start of a marathon wounded 18 people on Saturday in an English-speaking region of Cameroon plagued by separatist unrest, officials said.
The explosions targeted the “Race of Hope” annual marathon in Buea, in the Southwest region, 70 kilometres (43 miles) west of the country’s economic capital Douala.
“Eighteen people suffered injuries, among them an athlete and 17 spectators,” Sports Minister Narcisse Mouelle Kombi told AFP.
“There were several attempts at disruption with three explosions,” said regional governor Bernard Okalia Bilai. “These explosions had no impact on the race,” he added.
The self-described Ambazonian Defence Forces, a leading armed group in English-speaking Cameroon, claimed responsibility for the attack in a video on WhatsApp, saying they targeted soldiers protecting the athletes.
❗ Explosion Warning ❗
Bomb Blast in Road Marathon in Cameroon https://t.co/YFDQZNGlJH
— michael parchment (@miguelpergamon1) February 25, 2023
Cameroon’s primarily English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions have been gripped by conflict since separatists declared independence in 2017 after decades of grievances over perceived discrimination by the French-speaking majority.
President Paul Biya, who has ruled the central African nation with an iron fist for 40 years, has resisted calls for wider autonomy and responded with a crackdown.
The conflict in the former French colony has claimed more than 6 000 lives and forced more than a million people to flee their homes, according to the International Crisis Group think tank.
The United Nations says both sides have committed crimes against civilians.
The US embassy in Cameroon condemned the explosion on Twitter and wished those injured in the attack “a quick recovery”.
More than 450 athletes took part in the “Race of Hope”, according to an official document seen by AFP, which takes runners to the summit of Mount Cameroon, an active volcano and the country’s highest peak.
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