United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has condemned Monday's reported kidnapping of students and staff from a secondary school in Bamenda, North-West region of Cameroon.
"He calls for their immediate release and return to their homes and families," his spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, said in a statement on Tuesday.
"There can be no justification for these crimes against civilians, particularly minors," added Mr. Dujarric.
According to news reports, at least 79 students were abducted on Monday morning with their teacher, the principal and a driver - prompting a massive search operation involving the Cameroonian army. One student who hid under a bed said that events unfolded quickly as the kidnappers threatened to shoot, rounding up the older boys and leaving the smaller ones behind.
While no group has taken responsibility for the kidnappings, some journalists report that separatists complain that the Cameroon school system suppresses the English-speaking system inherited from the British.
"The Secretary-General reiterates the need for a peaceful solution to the crisis in the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon through an inclusive dialogue process," in which the UN "stands ready to assist," said the UN spokesperson.