Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)Armed men kidnapped 79 children from a boarding school in Cameroon's Northwest region, a local government official told CNN Monday.
Louis Marie Begne, spokesman for Cameroon's Northwest government, said the men entered the Presbyterian Secondary School in Bamenda, overwhelmed the guard and forced him to take them to the sleeping children.
The men took 79 boys and girls and tried to drive away with the school's minibus. The driver pretended there was a fault with the vehicle so the men took off with the children on foot.
Begne said a crisis meeting was held Monday morning, and the Cameroonian army, police and military police are looking for the children.
The BIR---the Rapid Intervention Battalion, an elite military unit -- is also involved, and helicopters are in the air looking for the youngsters.
It is likely the children have been split into groups, Begne said.
Begne added that the principal of the school had been kidnapped --and let go—only three days ago and had been told not to return to the school.
Benge was not able to say who the kidnappers were, and did not rule out secessionists.
Anglophone separatist fighters calling for independence from Cameroon's largely Francophone government have been accused of kidnapping students in Cameroon's north and southwest region.
In September, seven students and a head teacher were kidnapped by armed separatists from their school in the town of Bafut, in the northwest of the country, according to Amnesty International.
The hostages were "tortured and seriously injured" b