This handout picture provided by the communication cell of the Cameroonian Defence Ministry and taken in May 5, 2009 shows a vessel of a Cameroonian Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR in French), permanently deployed in the peninsula of Bakassi, western Cameroon near the Nigerian border, to fight against kidnapping and attacks by pirates in Bakassi, where the state struggles to maintain law and order. (AFP PHOTO / COMMUNICATION CELL OF THE CAMEROONIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY)
YAOUNDE, Cameroon — Cameroon's defense minister says at least 34 people have been declared missing after a military vessel sank off the country's Atlantic coast.
Joseph Beti Assomo said Monday that the military has been deployed to investigate. He says helicopters have rescued three soldiers and will continue the search.
Assomo says 37 people were on board the ship, which was on a routine mission to the Bakassi peninsula when it sank Sunday.
The oil-rich Bakassi peninsula was handed over to Cameroon by Nigeria following an International Court of Justice ruling. Nigerian forces had occupied the area in the 1980s, leading to violent confrontations with Cameroon's military.