Armed separatists have kidnapped at least 78 students and their principal from a Presbyterian school in Nkwen village in Cameroon's restive northwest region, a governor said Monday.
But no single group has said it carried out the kidnapping at Bamenda's Presbyterian Secondary School, which has pupils aged between 10 and 14.
A video purportedly of the kidnapped children was released on social media Sunday via men who call themselves Amba boys, a reference to the state of Ambazonia which armed separatists are trying to establish in Cameroon's northwest and southwest regions.
An Anglophone separatist movement took up arms a year ago to demand independence for the North-West and South-West regions - the two English-speaking regions in a country where French is the most widely spoken official language.
In the video, the kidnappers force several of the young male students to give their names and the names of their parents.
According to United Nations figures, 246,000 people in the Southwest Region have fled their homes, and 25,000 have sought shelter in neighbouring Nigeria, many of them living hand-to-mouth in the forests.
The abduction happened before dawn in the city of Bamenda in the English-speaking Northwest region. The children say they were kidnapped late Sunday by the Amba boys, and they don't know where they are being held.
"All 79 students have been released", said Issa Bakary Tchiroma, without giving details of the circumstances under which they were set free.
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One of them shouted, how many times have we asked you not to work here again. You will be going to school now here, " the men said on the video.
The Anglophone separatists maintain they are being marginalised and dominated by the Francophone majority.
Hundreds have been killed amid the violence in the past year.
There have been kidnappings at other schools, but this is group of children is the largest.
The separatists, who are protesting against President Paul Biya's French-speaking government, have imposed strict curfews, shuttered schools, and killed government soldiers and policemen in guerilla raids.
After an intensive search, the students were released and returned to the school with their driver at 9:30 p.m. (4:30 p.m. ET) on Tuesday, according to teacher Vumesegah Peter Kogah.
The government has also accused separatists of taking the children, but a separatist spokesman has denied involvement. "The abduction of schoolchildren and teachers can never be justified".