YAOUNDE, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- The president of the Northwest regional chapter of Cameroon Association of English-speaking Journalists (CAMASEJ) was kidnapped Thursday by "unknown gunmen" in Bamenda, Cameroon's largest Anglophone city, CAMASEJ said in a statement.
"It is with great disbelief and shock that CAMASEJ Northwest just learned of the kidnap of its president, Ambe Macmillian Awa, this Thursday afternoon around 2:30 p.m. by unknown gunmen," Fongoh Primus Ayeh, secretary general of CAMASEJ Northwest, said in a statement released Thursday evening.
Ayeh "vehemently" condemns the act and said it was "tantamount to kidnapping all journalists in the region and nation."
He said the search for Awa's whereabouts was in progress and demanded his "immediate and unconditional release."
Awa, who is also secretary general of the Northwest chapter of Cameroon Journalists Trade Union, is the first high profile journalist to be kidnapped since an armed conflict started in the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon in November 2017.
His abduction has drawn condemnation. Committee to Protect Journalists tweeted that it was "concerned" over the abduction and stressed that "he must be freed unharmed."
Kidnappings have become rampant in the two troubled Anglophone regions of Northwest and Southwest since the start of this year. Over the weekend, 170 students and their teacher were kidnapped in the Northwest. They were released later following negotiations.
Armed separatists want the two regions to secede from largely French-speaking Cameroon and create a new nation they called "Ambazonia."
The United Nations estimates that at least 430,000 people in Cameroon have been displaced internally by the conflict.