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70 Cameroon Children Rescued From Illegal Detention Camp

FILE: Map of Northern Cameroon

Cameroon authorities said they have freed 70 children from an illegal disciplinary camp in the north, where the children say they were left by their parents to be chained and beaten. Police say the rescued children are being treated, and camp workers jailed. For VOA, Moki Edwin Kindzeka reports.

Cameroon police said they entered on Tuesday an illegal disciplinary camp, known locally as a "traditional rehabilitation center for wayward children," in the city of Ngaoundere.

Authorities said they freed 70 boys and girls 6 to 14 years old with many limping as a result of torture and others with fresh wounds.

The camp's owners anad workers were arrested, and will be charged with torture, homicide, illegal detention and child abuse.

One of the freed youths, 14-year-old Alim Iddrisou, said he was sent to this camp by his parents after he refused to attend a Quranic school.

Iddrisou said he endured torture inflicted by camp workers. He said he spent the first of his two years in the camp in shackles. He went on to say meals there were meager and complaints were responded to with a beating.

The young teen told local media that workers forced children to defecate in plastic bags or urinate in bottles. He said older boys were escorted to empty the feces and urine in a nearby stream at night.

The liberated children said four others at the camp died during the last three months from hunger and torture. Police acknowledge that a few children died. The government said it is still trying to identify their parents.

Kildadi Taguieke Boukar, governor of Cameroon's Adamawa region where Ngaoundere is located, said he ordered the children to get medical attention. The official also said he has asked police to find the parents of those detained so they can answer charges including negligence and child abuse.

Boukar ordered local government officials, clerics, elite, community leaders and village chiefs to help put a stop to this form of primitiveness and torture by reporting promoters of such disciplinary camps to the police.

He said parents who send their children to such camps will be punished, stressing that Cameroon is a lawful state and its citizens must respect human rights or face the consequences.

Rights groups including the Yaounde-headquartered Center for Religious Studies, and some Muslim groups like the Council of Imams and Muslim Dignitaries of Cameroon, have previously criticized what they call the proliferation of Islamic disciplinary camps in Cameroon.

The government says even though such camps were prohibited in 2017, many are hidden within communities and operate illegally. The government says it will hunt down and shutter these detention facilities.