At least 10 young people died at a military recruitment in Maroua in the Far North Cameroon, French language daily newspaper, Mutations reported Thursday, citing several sources.
It said about 70 others were referred to local hospitals following the incident.
The youths who were all between 18 and 23 years old, reportedly incurred varied fractures during “a particularly tough” physical exercise to recruit commandos into the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR), an elite unit that fights terrorism and high banditry.
Cameroon army spokesperson Didier Badjeck was not reachable at the time of this report, but it was not the first time such an incident was reported during a military recruitment in the country.
Among other physical activities, the male only candidates were expected to completer a 30km race carrying a 20kg load under a scorching sun.
A total of 4,800 candidates started the recruitment but only 850 successfully went through the first phase, the Mutations tabloid disclosed.
Some candidates confessed that the exercise was particularly difficult this year.
“We were dried under hot sun for eight hours before the race. To proceed to the next phase, a candidate had to be among the first 850 to cross the gate into the headquarters of the BIR at Salak,” an unsuccessful candidate recounted to the Mutations.
Abdoulaye Gadjama explained that he saw many of his peers with fractures during the physical exercises.
“It is the second time that I am doing the recruitment, but this year was particularly difficult. I saw some faint, some lost their legs and others incurred different fractures. I personally saw about five dead bodies,” the paper quoted him saying.
A military official supervising the recruitment admitted to the local newspaper that many of the candidates had illnesses which the tough physical exercise had exposed.
“Because of the specific nature of the current demand in the fight against Boko Haram, we need resistant soldiers. That is why the level of the recruitment has been raised this year,” the official of the Maroua military hospital explained on grounds of anonymity.
The source said candidates with serious cases were being treated while those who had minor problems had already left hospital.
The Cameroon government announced the recruitment of 1,800 soldiers this year to raise the capacities of the BIR that has been fighting against the incursion of the Nigeria jihadist group, the Boko Haram.
The recruitment ends on February 7.