English-speaking separatists released five priests, a nun, a catechist, a cook and a teenager they kidnapped a month ago from a church in the Southwest Region of Cameroon.
The release on 23 Oct follows worldwide international appeals from governments, humanitarian organisations as well as the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis.
In a statement made shortly after their release, one of the priests thanked their abductors for their “hospitality”.
“We want to thank the freedom fighters of Ambazonia for having freed us and for their hospitality. Many thanks”, the priest declared.
One of the several faction leaders of the Anglophone separatists, Mark Bareta, had issued a statement on Oct 21 saying the abduction of the church workers and Christians was not part of the separatist struggle.
“It is heartbreaking to see the video of the Catholic priests/nun kidnapped in Nchang, Manyu and detained for one month now. It is horrible for any group to do that. That does not represent the struggle. Those keeping them, please, let them go”, Mark Bareta declared in a video on social media.
The group were taken from St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Nchang in Manyu Division of the restive Southwest region on 16 Sept.
The separatist kidnappers had asked for a ransom of US$100,000 for their release which they eventually reduced to US$50,000, but the Catholic Church refused to pay the ransom saying such payment would constitute a “dangerous precedent”.
It is not however known whether any ransom was in fact paid before the release of the nine.
In a statement issued shortly after the release, Bishop of the Mamfe diocese, Aloysius Abangalo Fondong condemned “the act of desecrating the church, in the strongest terms possible and to decry the need for the enhancement of human dignity. Taking away the freedom of our fellow brothers and sisters in order to make money at all cost is inhuman.”
The Bishop thanked “all those who joined us in this collective effort in praying for the safety and release of our brothers and sisters”.
Shortly after the abduction of the priests and Christians, Pope Francis had appealed for their release.
“I join the appeal of the Bishops of Cameroon for the liberation of several persons kidnapped in the Diocese of Mamfe. I pray for them and for the inhabitants of the Bamenda ecclesiastical province. May the saviour appease the hearts and the social life of this dear country”, Pope Francis had said.
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