DOUALA, Cameroon — The killing of a Cameroonian police official has prompted the country to shut its border with Central African Republic, officials said Wednesday.
The incident late Monday between Cameroonian border police and fighters loyal to Central African Republic's new president happened in the town of Toktoyo, said Ivaha Dieudonne, governor of Cameroon's East Region. An announcement of the border closure was read out on Cameroon's state television Wednesday morning.
Witnesses said the killing was triggered by a dispute between the official, Felix Ndalle Ngando, and an army lieutenant from Central African Republic who claimed his badge had been stolen and demanded its return before he crossed back into Central African Republic. In response, Ngando ordered the lieutenant to leave Cameroon and personally walked him over the border. Minutes later, however, the lieutenant and several other fighters crossed back into Cameroon while shooting wildly, killing Ngando and causing other border officials to flee.
"He was shot several times in the toilets where he had taken cover. There were over 30 bullets sprayed in his body by the Central African Republic soldiers, who spoke Arabic," said Ngeu Lise, a border police official. "I was hiding in one of the rooms when they stormed the building and was lucky I was not found. They were armed with Kalashnikovs. We were no match with our pistols and we had to hide."
The lieutenant was a member of the Seleka rebel coalition that deposed former Central African Republic President Francois Bozize in March. Seleka leader Michel Djotodia was officially sworn in as president on Sunday.
Cameroon has consistently complained about fighters from Central African Republic targeting border posts and seizing weapons. After killing Ngando on Monday, the Seleka fighters also stormed a gendarmerie station and released a fellow fighter who had been detained weeks earlier for lacking residency papers, witnesses said.
Dieudonne, the East Region governor, downplayed the significance of the border closure for relations between the two countries.
"There is no war between Cameroon and Central African Republic," Dieudonne said. "This is an isolated case of irresponsible behavior on the part of wayward Seleka soldiers who have betrayed their calling and rank."
He did not specify how long the border would remain closed, but said officials from the two countries were already working to resolve the situation.
In May, the Cameroon embassy in Central African Republic issued a formal protest over the killing of a Cameroonian truck driver by Seleka forces a few kilometers outside Bangui, Central African Republic's capital.