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19 people injured in blast at Cameroon sports event

YAOUNDE, Cameroon (AP) — At least 19 people were injured in an explosion Saturday at a sports event in southwest Cameroon, authorities said.

Nine athletes competing in the Mount Cameroon Race of Hope in Buea town were injured, as well as 10 civilians, including a baby, said Bernard Okalia Bikai, governor of the southwest region.

The injured have been taken to Buea regional hospital and are receiving treatment, he told The Associated Press.

The Central African nation has been plagued by fighting since English-speaking separatists launched a rebellion in 2017, with the stated goal of breaking away from the area dominated by the French-speaking majority country and setting up an independent, English-speaking state.

The government has accused the separatists of committing atrocities against English-speaking civilians. The conflict has killed more than 3,300 people and displaced more than 750,000 others, according to the U.N.

One of the separatist groups claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack, but said the intention was to hit the military.

“Our primary targets were the Cameroon military who where providing security for the athletes. We regret that civilians were injured. We will continue fighting the military wherever they are until they liberate our territory,” said Capo Daniel, deputy defense chief and spokesman for the Ambazonia Defense Forces..

The annual race was celebrating its 50th anniversary with more than 550 athletes from 13 countries taking part. The race was less than 30 minutes in when the explosion sent runners and spectators fleeing.

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