Gunmen grab 79 pupils and three staff from school in Cameroon

Kamto is protesting against the election results that declared Paul Biya the winner

The students were enrolled at the Presbyterian Secondary School in Bamenda, one of two areas where surging anglophone separatist militancy has been met with a brutal crackdown by authorities. "You will be going to school now here", say the men, who identified themselves as Amba boys.

The school's principal and a teacher were also kidnapped by people who don't want a ransom, but rather want remaining students to be sent home, sources tell The Guardian.

A video of some of the children, believed to have been filmed by one of the kidnappers, is being shared on social media.

Amnesty International expressed solidarity with the students' families and demanded "that the Cameroon authorities do everything in their power to ensure all the pupils and school staff are freed unharmed".

The numbers provided by North West Region Governor Deben Tchoffo were larger than his earlier estimate of the people kidnapped in Nkwen, a village near the regional capital, Bamenda.

Anglophone secessionists have imposed curfews and closed schools as part of their protest against President Paul Biya's French-speaking government and its perceived marginalisation of the English-speaking minority.

The Principal of the school, a driver and another teacher were also kidnapped, local sources confirmed.

Rebels have gunned down Cameroon troops, pictured, and police.

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A video of the hostages released on Monday showed one of the captives saying they had been seized by "Amba Boys" - the widely-used term to describe the separatist rebels. The video could not be independently verified, but parents have said on social media that they recognize their children in the video.

"We hope and pray they release the kids and the teachers", he added.

Mr Biya was credited with 71.3pc of the vote, although the ballot was marred by allegations of widespread fraud, low voter turnout and violence.

About 20 percent of Cameroon's 22 million people are English speaking.

Cameroon, once a German colony, was divided between Britain and France after World War I. The French colony gained independence in 1960, becoming Cameroon.

More than 300,000 other have fled the violence, some crossing into neighbouring Nigeria.

In an October presidential election, opposition candidate Maurice Kamto declared victory against Biya, who has ruled since 1982, but Biya's ruling party dismissed claims of defeat and accused Kamto of breaking the law.

At least 400 civilians and more than 175 members of the security forces have been killed in the year to September, according to a toll compiled by non-governmental organisations.

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