The Cameroon governor said on Monday that armed men kidnapped 78 students from a Presbyterian school in Nkwen village in restive northwest.
Dozens of people, majority children, have been kidnapped from a school in the city of Bamenda in Cameroon's northwestern Anglophone region, which is struggling with a separatist insurgency.
A video purportedly of the kidnapped children was released on social media Sunday via men who call themselves Amba boys, a reference to the state of Ambazonia which armed separatists are trying to establish in Cameroon's northwest and southwest regions.
In the video, the kidnappers forced about six of the children to give their names and the names of their parents.
Men who identified themselves as the kidnappers told the children of the conditions for their release.
According to United Nations figures, 246,000 people in the Southwest Region have fled their homes, and 25,000 have sought shelter in neighbouring Nigeria, many of them living hand-to-mouth in the forests.
An unidentified military official said those abducted, including the school's principal, "were taken to the bush [remote area]".
"We shall only release you after the struggle". The video could not be independently verified, but parents have said on social media that they recognize their children in the video.
The crisis started as an industrial strike by lawyers and teachers in 2016, but snowballed into an internal armed conflict since past year when separatists joined and symbolically declared the independence of the Federal Republic of Ambazonia.
It comes after elections on October 7 that saw President Paul Biya, 85, who has ruled the country with an iron fist for 35 years, secure a seventh term in office.
"They say I have to close the school".
Governor Deben Tchoffo spoke publicly about the kidnappings, stating: "It is rather unfortunate that this is happening, that 79 of our children and three of their staff can be picked up by terrorists". Neither the government nor the separatist groups provided evidence to substantiate their accusations.
"A widely followed boycott of schools was in place since late 2016, but since early 2017, school administrators and teachers perceived as not enforcing the boycott have faced increasing attacks by individuals and groups of individuals, acting on their own or in support of self-proclaimed armed separatist groups". They also burned down at least 100 schools and removed students and teachers from others they took over, the AP said. "The abduction of schoolchildren and teachers can never be justified".