A French family of seven has been kidnapped while vacationing in Cameroon, and Islamist militants are believed to be behind it.
The family, with four children, was on holiday in Cameroon’s Far North Region, reports The Associated Press. The Boko Haram extremist Islamic sect from neighboring Nigeria is the main suspect, and the Cameroon military are searching with helicopters, notes AP. One of the captives is an employee of GDF Suez, a multinational utility company.
Jean-David Ndjigba, the Far North Regional Delegate in the Ministry of Forest and Wildlife, said, “The three adult tourists and four children were picked up early today (Tuesday) by men riding on motorbikes who rode off toward the border into Nigeria.” The family’s vehicle has been recovered near the Nigerian border and the search is focused primarily in Waza National Park, a popular tourist destination but one that has had to deal with kidnappers abducting locals for ransom, notes AP.
French President Francois Hollande, on a trip to Athens, confirmed the family’s kidnapping and said that the terrorist group behind the abduction was one the government knows very well, reports Agence France-Presse.
The GDF Suez employee is stationed in Cameroon’s capital of Yaounde and took his family on vacation to the Far North Region. The four children are five, eight, 10 and 12 years of age and the family was accompanied by an uncle, notes AFP. The family was ambushed by six armed individuals and the kidnapping could be in retaliation to France’s actions in Mali.
Hollande said, “I note in particular the presence of a terrorist group, namely Boko Haram, in that part of Cameroon, and that's worrying enough.” Boko Haram is responsible for at least 792 deaths in Nigeria in 2012 and the terrorist group has been linked to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, as are the rebels in Mali.
But Cameroon officials say it is premature to link the kidnapping to Mali or the Boko Haram.
The family was kidnapped in front of witnesses and, according to a Cameroonian trader who was among them, “Nobody could help the white men because the kidnappers were heavily armed and they threatened to shoot anyone that approached,” reports AP. There are believed to be seven French citizens being held in northern Mali and another citizen who had also been kidnapped in Cameroon.
In Nigeria, where the French family may have been taken, a group called Ansaru said Monday it was responsible for the kidnapping of the seven other foreigners over the weekend, reports AFP.
Speaking about the kidnapping as a potential test of France’s resolve on the war on terrorism in Africa, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said, “There is a battle to be led by the international community against terrorist groups and narco-terrorists,” reports AP.