YAOUNDÈ, Cameroon – Religious authorities in Cameroon say they are horrified at the killing of a six-year-old girl by a member of the security forces in the city of Buea, the capital of the country’s South West region.

Enondiale Tchuengia Carolaise was shot on Oct. 14 on her way to a local Catholic school. Government officials say the girl’s mother refused to pull over at a checkpoint.

The security officer then resorted to what the authorities have described as “disproportionate force” by opening fire on the car, hitting the child’s head.

An angry mob who witnessed the scene then killed the officer, as his colleagues helplessly looked on.

“I witnessed with shock, horror, sorrow and fright the deformed head on the lifeless body of six-year old Enondiale Tchuengia Carolaise, a class one pupil of CUIB Academy of Talents Primary School Molyko, Buea who was brutally murdered, “said Bishop Michael Miabesue Bibi in an Oct. 15 statement.

The academy is a Catholic school managed by the Diocese of Buea.

“I feel the pain of the family of the late Carolaise and those who have lost their loved ones in similar circumstances, “the prelate said.

“As we prepare to celebrate a funeral Mass for this little angel, I join my voice to so many others in condemning the horrific shooting at a car that led to the death of an innocent child simply because the driver did not comply with security checks,” said Bibi.

“I equally condemn the killing of the gendarme officer who committed the act by the mob, because no one has the right to take away human life,” he added.

“Even when people by their actions dishonor the dignity of others, or deprive them of human life, as in the case at hand, we must still recognize their human dignity and right to life, which cannot be lost even by the vilest offense,” Bibi said.

The bishop said civilians have continued to pay the price of the reckless actions by both the security forces and armed rebel groups since the outbreak of the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon’s South West and North West Regions.

Rebels are seeking to establish an English-speaking country, independent from the rest of Cameroon, which is majority French speaking.

Bibi said unnecessary violence “has in one way or another contributed to radicalizing some of [the English-speaking population.]”

The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, Rt Rev. Fonki Samuel Forba said lack of professionalism on the part of uniformed officers was the cause of the child’s death, and accused the military of instilling fear, not security, for the population.

“The unfortunate incident that ensued because of this shooting that led to the death of the Gendarme officer is the result of unprofessionalism in the exercise of his duties. The presence of the forces of law and order is supposed to incarnate safety, not fear, but the latter seems to be what is experienced by the populace on a daily basis,” Forba said in a statement.

The regional governor, Bernard Okalia Bilai told the angry crowd at the scene that perpetrators of the crime will be brought to justice, even though the Gendarme responsible was also killed.

“This child could have been your child or my child,” the governor said.

“The innocent child was going to school. I am fighting here for children to go to school. So all of us are in shock. I want to assure you that those who did it, some are already under arrest,” he said.

“Those who did it, no matter their grade, they will pay. They will pay!”

However, the military said the girl’s mother bore the responsibility for the death of her child.

Military spokesman, Lt. Col. Cyrille Atongfack Nguemo said she refused to comply with security checks, resulting in an “inexplicable verbal brawl … between the two Gendarmes and the driver, who was firmly opposed to the search of the vehicle.”

“In an inappropriate reaction, unsuited to the circumstances and clearly disproportionate to the irreverent behavior of the driver, one of the Gendarmes will, in defiance of the sacrosanct principle of precaution, fire warning shots in order to immobilize the vehicle,” he said.

Many have questioned how a warning shot – usually fired in the air – could have killed a child in the car.

Bibi urged security forces to show more restraint in carrying out security operations that could put the lives of innocent civilians at risk.

At least 4000 people have been killed during the five-year conflict, with the United Nations saying nearly 800,000 have been forced from their homes.