By Linda Bordoni
Kenyan Father Cosmas Ombato was a young Mill Hill missionary serving as assistant parish priest of the St Martin of Tours Parish in the village of Kembong, in restive southwest Cameroon.
He was reportedly caught in crossfire between the military and armed separatists.
Violence has flared in the West African nation’s South West and North West regions in months of fighting between government forces and English-speaking armed militants who want an independent state.
In October, an American Baptist missionary was shot dead in the town of Bamenda in the North West, where scores of students and their teachers have been abducted from schools.
Another Kenyan missionary was killed in Buea in the South West in April 2017.
The crisis in English-speaking Cameroon started in 2016 as an industrial strike by lawyers and teachers asking for investment and development which – they say – is being withheld from the Francophone regions and the recently re-elected President, 83-year-old Paul Biya, who has been in power for 36 years.
The unrest snowballed into an internal armed conflict since last year when separatists joined and symbolically declared the independence of the Federal Republic of Ambazonia.
Hundreds of people dead and displaced
At least 400 civilians 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 escalating violence.
More than 300,000 people have fled the violence, many of them now living from hand-to-mouth and exposed to varied dangers in the forests, and some across the border into Nigeria.