Roman Catholic priest kidnapped by gunmen over the weekend in Cameroon’s conflict-torn Anglophone region has been released after three days in captivity, says church.
On Sunday, Mgr Julius Agbortoko, a Roman Catholic priest and Vicar General of the Diocese of Mamfe in Cameroon’s English-speaking South West, was kidnapped by boys “who identified themselves as separatist militants.”
“Yes, he has been released after three days of captivity,” the Diocese’s Chancellor, Father Sebastian Sinju, confirmed to Nation.Africa by phone on Thursday.
The kidnappers had demanded a ransom of FCFA 20 million, according to a statement released by the Diocese on Monday.
However, Father Sinju said Mgr Agbortoko was released unconditionally.
“No ransom was paid to secure the release of Mgr Agbortoko. He has also confirmed that he was not mistreated by his captors,” Father Sinju explained.
Vicar General’s abduction is the latest in a series of kidnappings and attacks on the church in general and the Mamfe Diocese in particular since what started as an industrial strike by lawyers and teachers morphed into an armed conflict in 2017.
Mamfe, which is the headquarters of Manyu Division that borders Nigeria, has been the epicenter of bloody clashes between the government troops and armed separatist fighters seeking to separate the Anglophone regions of the country from the majority French speaking Cameroon.
This latest abduction took place just over three months after another priest and Communication Director of the Mamfe Diocese, Father Christopher Eboka, had been abducted.
Father Eboka had been abducted alongside his bike rider while heading to one of the Outstations of St. Joseph’s Cathedral Parish of Mamfe Diocese to preside over Pentecost Sunday Mass on May 23.
Both were released on June 1.
While some clergymen who had been kidnapped were later released, there are some who were killed by their armed captors.
In November 2018, Father Cosmas Omboto Ondari, a Mill Hill Kenyan missionary serving in the Mamfe Diocese was shot dead.
Citing eyewitnesses, the then Bishop of the Mamfe Diocese, Mgr Andrew Nkea Fuanya (now Archbishop of the Bamenda Archdiocese) said the Kenyan priest was shot in front of St. Martin of Tours Parish in Kembong by Government Soldiers who were shooting randomly from their passing vehicle.