A Cameroon Roman Catholic bishop has accused government troops of killing a Kenyan missionary in the country’s volatile Southwest region on Wednesday.
Father Cosmas Omboto Ondari, a Mill Hill missionary, was “brutally and recklessly murdered” at the Kembong church where he was serving as the parochial vicar of the St Martin of Tours Parish, the Bishop of Mamfe, Andrew Nkea, said in a statement late Thursday.
“He was killed by government soldiers, who were shooting at random from their passing vehicle,” Bishop Nkea said, citing eyewitness accounts.
“I visited Kembong Parish on Thursday, November 22 and personally counted 21 bullet holes on the church building… the blood of the murdered priest was still clearly seen on the cemented entrance, just at the door,” the prelate recounted.
Bishop Nkea called for thorough investigations into the heinous crime committed against an innocent and peace loving missionary, adding that the culprits be brought to justice.
The Cameroon military has denied involvement in the murder, saying the Kenyan priest was killed by armed assailants.
“The man of God was not killed by the Cameroon military. Preliminary investigations show that Fr Cosmas Ondari was shot by assailants dressed in combat outfit,” the military spokesperson Col Didier Badjeck told The EastAfrican on phone.
Col Badjeck said a patrol team was ambushed in the area in the early hours of Wednesday and one of the soldiers lost his eye.
The death of Fr Ondari brings to at least three the number of foreign missionaries killed in the midst of the two-year long escalating conflict that has gripped the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon.
Last October, a US Baptist missionary Charles Truman Wesco was killed in the Northwestern town of Bambui near Bamenda.
A Roman Catholic priest, Fr Alexander Nougi Sob, was also killed in the Southwestern town of Muyuka in July.
The crisis in English-speaking Cameroon started as an industrial strike by lawyers and teachers in 2016 but snowballed into an internal armed conflict last year when separatists joined and symbolically declared the independence of the Federal Republic of Ambazonia.
At least 400 “ordinary people” and more than 175 members of the security forces have been killed, according to statistics by local and international groups that have been documenting abuses in the violence.
More than 300,000 people have fled the conflict, rights groups say.