A French family of seven, including four children, was kidnapped on Feb. 19 in Cameroon, according to a Yahoo News report. The French gas group GDF Suez identified the captives as an employee working in the Cameroon capital of Yaounde and his family. The group was reportedly vacationing in the north.
A French official close to the embassy in Cameroon said the family was likely taken from northern Cameroon to Nigeria, where on Feb. 19, extremist group Ansaru claimed responsibility for unrelated abductions, reports the Associated Press.
Military helicopters are being used to search for the tourists, a Cameroonian government official told The Associated Press. “The three adult tourists and four children were picked up early today by men riding on motorbikes who rode off toward the border into Nigeria,” the Far North Regional Delegate in the Ministry of Forest and Wildlife, Jean-David Ndjigba said from the province's capital of Maroua.
“As I speak to you right now, helicopters are flying over the entire province, and specifically in the administrative area of Waza in search of the kidnapped tourists,” Ndjigba said, adding that the vehicle the tourists used has been recovered on the borders flanking Nigeria. According to the Associated Press, Waza Park, a natural wildlife reserve in the Far North Region attracts mainly foreign tourists, but is also known for raids by bandits abducting locals for ransom.
One Cameroonian trader, who preferred anonymity, said he witnessed the scene. He explained that the family’s vehicle got stuck in the sand, near Dabanga town, about four miles from the Nigerian border. Soon after, a group of armed men on motorbikes arrived on the scene and abducted the family at gunpoint, in front of a crowd of onlookers. “Nobody could help the white men because the kidnappers were heavily armed and they threatened to shoot anyone that approached,” said the trader.
The latest kidnappings add to mounting fears of danger toward foreigners in the region.
French President Francois Hollande, speaking during a visit to Greece, warned French citizens in West Africa to avoid putting themselves in dangerous situations. Hollande noted that France is engaged in a military campaign in Mali to push out jihadists who had taken control of the north. Terrorists, he said, “are not just in Mali.”
“If everything is confirmed, this signifies that the fight against terrorist groups is a necessity,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in Paris.
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