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French hostages moved to Nigeria

French special forces have arrived in northern Cameroon to help locate a French family who were kidnapped on Tuesday and moved to Nigeria, a local governor said yesterday.

The abduction of three adults and four children highlights the risk to French nationals and interests in Africa since Paris sent forces to Mali to oust Islamist rebels.

“French special forces came in yesterday from N’Djamena to help with the investigation. They left yesterday and came back today,” Augustine Fonka Awa, governor of Cameroon’s Far North Region, said.

He declined to say how many French military arrived from their regional base in Chad’s capital, which is about 60 kilometres from where the French tourists were taken.

It was the first case of foreigners being seized in the mostly Muslim north of Cameroon, a former French colony. But the region – like others in West and North Africa with typically porous borders – is considered within the operational sphere of Boko Haram and fellow Nigerian Islamist militants Ansaru.

The father of the family, which included children aged between five and 12, worked for utility GDF Suez and French tele-vision reported he was from a family of winemakers in the Burgundy region.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said yesterday evidence pointed to Nigerian Islamists Boko Haram, but there did not appear to be a direct link to France’s intervention in Mali.

“We believe it’s the Boko Haram group that carried out the kidnapping, but we don’t know for sure. Unfortunately, terror breeds terror,” Le Drian told France 2 television.

Asked to confirm or deny whether France had sent special forces, a spokesman at the Defence Ministry in Paris said only that their presence was an unfounded rumour.

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