Cameroon security forces free 18 hostages from separatists

Cameroon's government says security forces have freed 18 hostages, including 12 European tourists, who had been seized by separatists fighting for the independence of English-speaking regions.

Spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary says seven Swiss and five Italian hostages were freed Monday from Manyu in the southwest. He says residents helped the military locate the hostages, whose vehicle had been seized while they were visiting a lake in the region several days earlier.

Bakary says six municipal counsellors in the northwest also were freed. He says separatists took them after warning that English-speaking parts of Cameroon are now considered the independent state of Ambazonia and would not accept elections organized by an outside country.

Tensions started in 2016 when English teachers and lawyers demonstrated against the use of French in Anglophone areas.