Cameroon President Paul Biya. AFP

Cameroon’s President Paul Biya has warned Anglophone separatists to lay down their arms or face the full force of the law, a day after 97 schoolchildren were abducted in the region.

Clashes between a secessionist movement and the army began more than a year ago in West Cameroon, killing over 400 civilians and forcing thousands to flee their homes.

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On Monday, unidentified assailants kidnapped 79 children, their principal and a driver from the PSS Nkwen school in Bamenda in Northwest region and took them into the bush outside town, military and government sources said.

An army spokesman blamed separatists for Monday’s kidnapping. A separatist spokesman denied involvement and said government soldiers had carried it out, as a ploy to discredit the insurgents.

Biya, making an inauguration speech after re-election last month that extends his 36-year-old rule, did not mention the kidnapping but attacked the separatists.