Cameroon Detains BBC Journalists

Cameroon's military has detained two journalists working for the British Broadcasting Corp. (search) on suspicion of spying in the disputed, oil-rich Bakassi peninsula, the West African country said.

The BBC said the journalists were covering the upcoming Nigerian withdrawal from the peninsula and had been traveling with the knowledge of the Cameroon (search) authorities.

Farouk Cothia, a producer with the BBC's African service, and Ange Ngu Thomas (search), a local reporter working for the BBC, were detained by the military Sunday, the BBC said from London.

The two remained under house arrest Wednesday in Cameroon's Atlantic coast town of Limbe, it said.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (search) protested the detentions.

"Our colleagues Farouk Chothia and Ange Ngu Thomas should be released immediately," executive director Ann Cooper said in a statement. "Journalists should be allowed to report freely in Bakassi in the run-up to the handover."

Bakassi, a heavily militarized, petroleum-rich peninsula, has been the subject of deadly territorial battles between Cameroon and neighboring Nigeria.

Nigeria is to withdraw from the peninsula in coming months under a 2002 international court ruling.

"What did they go to do in Bakassi? They were there as spies," Jean Paul Mbiya, a Cameroon Communications Ministry official, said Wednesday.

Mbiya acknowledged that the pair had written, government permission to report in Cameroon, but he said that did not extend to Bakassi, which still is under military control.

Mbiya claimed the two "were caught taking pictures of military installations, which, like in every other country, is strategic."

The two "have been under very tight security interrogation, but their lives are not in danger," the official said.