“We were sitting in a bar that evening when about 60 people burst in,” says Appolin Tchanga, a 43-year-old house painter.
“I was stabbed with a knife – I came close to death.”
Changa bears scars on his chest, inflicted when a gang swept through a neighbourhood in Douala, Cameroon’s economic capital, in June.
Gang violence in the city is on the rise both night and day, with roving bands touting machetes, clubs, knives and even screwdrivers to terrorise and steal.
“The problem is rising,” said a police officer who asked not to be named. “If nothing is done, they are going to be taking entire districts hostage.”
The brazen violence in this port city of some 3.7 million people hardly makes headlines abroad – Cameroon’s far bloodier conflicts in its restive anglophone west and jihadist-troubled Far North region are more newsworthy.
The toll of casualties from the gang raids is unknown, but last month alone, at least four districts suffered such attacks.
“They beat up traders, stole goods and people’s possessions,” a vendor said in the rundown Ndokoti district.
“People stampeded. I ran off like everyone else and hurt myself,” said another trader, who gave his name as Prince.
Angry, fearful and frustrated at what they see as official indifference, locals are taking matters into their own hands.
In the lively Deido district, a raid was recently carried out by two dozen youths mainly armed with knives, according to Nicolas Njoh, general secretary to the chief of the district, which includes several villages.