YAOUNDE, Cameroon — Cameroon security forces have freed 18 hostages, including 12 European tourists, who had been seized by separatists fighting for the independence of English-speaking regions, the government said Wednesday.
Seven Swiss and five Italian hostages were freed Monday in Manyu in the southwest after heavy exchanges of gunfire, said spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary. Residents helped the military locate the hostages, whose vehicle had been seized while they were visiting a lake in the region several days earlier, he said.
"Many hostage-takers were neutralized," he said.
The 12 tourists have been taken to a hospital for treatment and will be handed over to their embassies, Tchiroma said.
Six municipal counsellors in Cameroon's northwest who were kidnapped by separatists also have been freed, the spokesman said.
Separatists had warned the council members not to vote in March 25 senatorial elections, saying that English-speaking parts of Cameroon were now an independent state called Ambazonia and would not accept any election organized by a foreign country.
Tchiroma said at least a dozen other people, including two senior state officials, are still being held hostage by the separatists.
The tensions in Cameroon started in 2016 when English teachers and lawyers went on strike against the use of the French language. Violence has intensified in Anglophone regions since then. Hundreds of people, including 30 policemen and soldiers, have been killed this year, the government said.