American missionary killed in Cameroon amid armed conflict

October 30, 2018 - 5:44 pm

YAOUNDE, Cameroon (AP) — An American missionary died in northwestern Cameroon after being shot in the head Tuesday amid fighting between armed separatists and soldiers, the director of the regional hospital said.

Charles Trumann Wesco, a missionary from the U.S. state of Indiana who had been in the region for two weeks, was rushed to the hospital in Bamenda after he was gravely wounded while in his car, hospital director Kingue Thomson Njie said.

"He died in our hospital after all attempts to save his life," Njie told The Associated Press.

Wesco's wife and eight children were still in Bamenda, he said. It was unclear if any of them were harmed or if someone else was with him in the car.

The missionary's brother is a state lawmaker in Indiana. Republican Rep. Tim Wesco confirmed his older brother's death and said, "He loved the Lord. He loved people. The Lord giveth. The Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."

Bamenda is in Cameroon's Northwest Region, the restive English-speaking area where armed separatists have been fighting to create an independent state. Fighting between armed groups and the military is ongoing.

Regional Gov. Deben Tchoffo said armed groups staged attacks to stop the reopening of the University of Bamenda, and the military fought back Tuesday. He said Wesco might have been caught in the crossfire.

Military spokesman Col. Didier Badjeck told the AP the military killed at least four suspects in Wesco's death and arrested many others. He did not specify if the people detained were military personnel or separatists.

Cameroon's military said last week after launching attacks on suspected separatist training grounds that "many have been killed." The attacks happened the day after President Paul Biya was declared the winner of a seventh term.

The increased violence began after the government clamped down on demonstrations by English-speaking teachers and lawyers protesting what they called their marginalization by Cameroon's French-speaking majority.

Armed factions emerged after the government crackdown and have been using violence to push for an independent state they call "Ambazonia."

Protests against the 85-year-old Biya's Oct. 7 re-election have been ongoing.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb issued a statement saying he and his wife, Janet, "are thinking of Rep. Tim Wesco and his family as they grieve the death of his brother Charles. We ask that all Hoosiers join us in offering prayers and condolences to the Wesco family."

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Associated Press reporter Ken Kusmer contributed to this report from Indianapolis.

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