Security fears loom over Africas football fiesta
Host nation Cameroon will ceremonially launch the month-long tournament on Sunday when they face Burkina Faso.
But the authorities are struggling with separatist gunmen in the west and jihadist raiders in the north — and some fear militants will seize the country’s turn in the sporting spotlight to launch attacks.
Security forces in the west are on high alert after armed groups sent threatening messages to teams in Group F, gathering Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania and Gambia.
The four teams are scheduled to play in the coastal town of Limbe, and their training site is Buea, a hotspot of separatist unrest.
“The threats are very serious,” Blaise Chamango, head of an NGO in Buea called Human Is Right, told AFP by phone.
“On Wednesday, there was an explosion in a takeaway outlet in Limbe. That sent a very powerful message.”
He added: “The government has stationed heavily armed soldiers at nearly all the crossroads in Buea and Limbe. Security and defence forces are arresting and searching everyone they see in some districts.”
Separatist campaignBuea is the capital of the Southwest Region, which with the neighbouring Northwest Region is in the grip of violence sparked by a bid by Cameroon’s anglophone minority to secede from the French-majority country.