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Catholic Priest in Cameroon Freed after Three Days in Captivity, No Ransom Paid: Official

Mgsr. Julius Agbortoko Abbor, Vicar General of Cameroon's Mamfe Diocese freed after spending three days in captivity. Credit: Mamfe Diocese

The Vicar General of Cameroon’s Mamfe Diocese, Mgsr. Julius Agbortoko Abbor, who was kidnapped in the country’s Anglophone region Sunday, August 29 has been freed. 

In a statement circulated Wednesday, September 1, the Chancellor of Mamfe Diocese, Fr. Sebastine Sinju, announces the safe release of the Cameroonian Priest, says no ransom was paid, and expresses gratitude for prayers offered for Fr. Abbor’s safe release. 

“After three days in captivity, we are glad to announce that our brother and Priest, Msgr. Julius Agbortoko Abbor, has been released without any ransom paid,” Fr. Sinju says in the statement obtained by ACI Africa.

Fr. Abbor was abducted from the residence of the Bishop Emeritus of Mamfe Diocese at about 6.45 p.m. on August 29.

When announcing Fr. Abbor’s kidnap on August 30, Fr. Sinju recounted that “the Vicar General who had spent the weekend at Kokobuma for a pastoral visitation and the inauguration of the presbytery of the parish, drove in that Sunday evening about 6 p.m. Thirty minutes after his arrival some youngsters got into the Major Seminary compound and kidnapped Msgr. Julius Agbortoko to an unknown destination.”

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The Chancellor of Mamfe Diocese further explained that the abductors who identified themselves as separatist fighters “noticed the presence of the Vicar General whom they considered younger and stronger than the frail Bishop emeritus.”    

According to Fr. Sinju, the separatists who had abducted Fr. Abbor were demanding a ransom of over 20 million francs CFA (US$36,000.00) before they can free him.

In the statement announcing the release of the Vicar General of Mamfe Diocese, Fr. Sinju expresses gratitude to God for the Priest’s release. 

“We thank God for his release. We thank all those who joined us to pray for his unconditional release and for us in these turbulent days,” Fr. Sinju says in the statement dated Tuesday, August 31. 

He adds, “We thank all our Priests, the faithful and Father’s biological family for their firm faith in God. We appreciate the assistance of everyone who showed concern.”

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The Chancellor of Mamfe Diocese also expresses his appreciation for “Mgr. Julius Agbortoko Abbor for his bravery and tenacity in the past three days.”  

Separatists have been operating in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon, Southwest and Northwest, since 2016 when the Anglophone region plunged into crisis after a protest by lawyers and teachers turned violent.

The armed separatists who claim independence for the so-called republic of Ambazonia have been responsible for abductions and attacks in the Anglophone regions. 

In May, Fr. Christopher Eboka, a member of the Clergy of Mamfe Diocese, was reportedly abducted by the separatists and freed after 10 days of captivity.

Fr. Eboka told ACI Africa that the chances he had to celebrate Holy Mass while in captivity were his sources of joy.

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Last November, the late Christian Cardinal Tumi was kidnapped by the separatists and freed the following day. Twelve other people, including the traditional Chief of the Nso tribe, Fon Sehm Mbinglo II, who had been abducted alongside the Cardinal were also later released.

The separatists were also responsible for the August 2019 abduction of  Bishop George Nkuo of Kumbo Diocese and that of the Archbishop emeritus of Bamenda, Cornelius Fontem Esua, in June 2019.

In the August 31 statement, Fr. Sinju calls on the people of God in Mamfe Diocese to pray for the Central African nation. 

“As we rejoice and thank God, let us join our voices and pray for peace and justice in our nation,” says the Chancellor of Mamfe Diocese.