Family of seven kidnapped in Cameroon
Islamist militants from neighbouring Nigeria abducted a French family of seven, including four children, in northern Cameroon yesterday, French President Francois Hollande said.
The risk of attacks on French nationals and interests in Africa has risen since France sent forces into Mali last month to help oust Islamist rebels occupying the country’s north.
“They (French family) have been taken by a terrorist group that we know and that is in Nigeria,” Hollande told reporters during a visit to Greece. Armed men on motorcycles intercepted the family in their car at 7am GMT and forced them to drive to the nearby Nigerian border, an aide to the governor of the province told Reuters, and the four-wheel drive vehicle was later found abandoned.
Islamist radicals in northern Nigeria now pose the biggest threat to stability in Africa’s top oil-producing state.
Western governments are concerned that Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamists may link up with groups elsewhere in a region with poorly secured borders, especially al Qaeda’s North African wing AQIM given the conflict in nearby Mali.
The seven French nationals were abducted in Dabanga about 10 km from the Nigerian border near the Waza national park, where they had spent the night in the extreme north of Cameroon, an area where Westerners often go for holidays.
The parents of the family, which included two boys and two girls, worked in a French firm based in Cameroon, Hollande said.
It was the first case of foreigners being seized in the mostly Muslim north of Cameroon, a former French colony.
“I see the hand of Boko Haram in that part of Cameroon. France is in Mali, and it will continue until its mission is completed,” Hollande said.
France intervened in Mali last month when Islamist rebels, after hijacking a rebellion by ethnic Tuareg MNLA separatists to seize control of the north in the confusion following a military coup, pushed south towards the capital Bamako.
Eight French citizens are already being held in West Africa’s Sahel region by al-Qaeda-affiliated groups.
“It shows that the fight against terrorist groups is a necessity as they threaten all of Africa,” French foreign minister Laurent Fabius told reporters.
Cameroon is a largely secular state where 70 per cent of the population is Christian and about 24 per cent moderate Muslim.