Yaound - A soldier was killed in an attempted kidnapping by militants of students from a school in one of Cameroon's restive English-speaking regions, a minister said on Friday.
"During an attack with weapons of war, a Cameroonian soldier lost his life and three students were wounded," the minister of territorial administration Paul Atanga Nji said in a statement read on state radio.
Separatists targeted the school in the town of Batibo in the northwest region on Wednesday with the "clear objective of kidnapping students," he said, adding that security forces intervened in the attack.
In his statement, Antanga Nji also said 18 cases of rape of girls aged between 13 and 18, some of whom are now pregnant, have recently been reported in Batibo and a cache of weapons and explosives discovered.
It comes after the kidnap of two Cameroonian officials last month close to the town, which lies 40km west of the city of Bamenda.
The abductions were claimed on social media by the so-called Ambazonia Defence Forces (ADF), an armed group of English-speaking separatists.
A push for independence from the majority French-speaking country has sparked deadly unrest in Cameroon's two anglophone provinces, home to around a fifth of the 23-million population.
In the capital Yaounde, 22 activists of the anglophone Cameroon People's Party were arrested by police on Friday, according to the party.
Among them was former presidential candidate Edith Kah Walla.
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"The arrests took place during a women's demonstration to demand that the killings in the southwest and northwest regions be stopped," party general secretary Frank Essi said.
The secessionist bid draws on widespread resentment over the perceived discrimination at the hands of the francophones.
Dozens of people have been killed in the two English-speaking northwest and southwest regions and tens of thousands have fled to neighbouring Nigeria following a violent crackdown on anti-government protests.
Aside from targeting police and soldiers, some separatist groups appear to be turning to kidnapping, as well as threatening French firms located in English-speaking areas.
A temporary 24-hour ban on motorcycles was also introduced in both provinces.
"Increasingly secessionist terrorists launch their assaults using motorcycles, each having a driver and an armed thug," Atanga Nji said Friday.