The university football team that was abducted earlier in the week in Cameroon has been freed, the university’s head coach told CNN on Friday.
The team of 20 students was taken while they were training at the University of Buea on Wednesday. They were released outside Buea town, in the southwest region of the country, coach Nicolas Asongu told CNN on Friday.
The players told their coach they were tortured by their kidnappers. “They were maltreated and some of them have wounds on their backs,” Asongu said.
The coach said those who were wounded are receiving treatment at a hospital.
It’s unclear if the university paid the ransom demanded for the players’ release, Asongu said.
Ngono Horace Manga, the university’s vice chancellor, told CNN on Thursday that the kidnappers had demanded a ransom to free the students.
No one has claimed responsibility for the abduction, but Anglophone separatists fighting for independence from Cameroon’s largely Francophone government have been accused of kidnapping students in the country’s north and southwest regions.
The secessionist fighters are calling for school boycotts in the areas.
In a 2018 report, Amnesty International said students and a head teacher were kidnapped by armed separatists from their school in Bafut, in the northwest of the country.
A group of 78 children was taken by gunmen from the Presbyterian Secondary School in Bamenda, northwest Cameroon, along with their principal, a teacher and a driver in October 2018.
They were released a few days later, but one of the female students told CNN their abductors warned them not to go back to school.
CNN’s Bukola Adebayo wrote and reported from Lagos, Nigeria. Journalist Meme Dominic reported from Douala.