The Catholic Church reported that five priests, a nun, and two churchgoers were abducted by assailants who set a church on fire in western Cameroon. This is the most recent act of violence in a region that has seen brutal strife between anglophone rebels and the state.
The Bamenda Provincial Episcopal Conference said that "unknown armed persons" torched the church of St. Mary in the village of Nchang during the attack on Friday.
"It was with great shock and utter horror that we, the Bishops (of the BAPEC) learnt of the burning down of the St Mary's Catholic Church, Nchang… and the kidnapping of five priests, one religious sister and two lay faithful by unknown gunmen," the statement said.
"This act was completely unprecedented and, as of now, no concrete reason has been given for this heinous act against the house of God and the messengers of God".
The attack has not yet been claimed, but it is often perpetrated by separatist groups and results from hostages being released after ransom demands or negotiations with local leaders.
ThCameroon'sorth West and South West regions have suffered a bloody conflict between anglophone separatists and the state for years.
English speakers make up most of the regions' populations in predominantly French-speaking Cameroon, which President Paul Biya has ruled with an iron fist since 1982.
Anglophone resentment at perceived discrimination snowballed into the declaration of an independent state in 2017 — the "Federal Republic of Ambazonia" — an entity that is not recognised internationally.
Biya, 89, has resisted calls for more autonomy in the regions and responded with a crackdown on the separatists.
The violence has claimed more than 6,000 lives and displaced around a million people, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank.
International monitors and the United Nations said both sides have committed abuses, including crimes against civilians.
Last week, six people were killed in an attack on a bus in the country's western region.