Kidnappers have taken seven French tourists seized in Cameroon across the border into neighbouring Nigeria, the Cameroon government says.
“The kidnappers have gone across the border into Nigeria with their hostages,” the foreign ministry said in a statement aired on state television and radio on Tuesday.
French President Francois Hollande had earlier said that seven French nationals, four adults and three children from the same family, had been kidnapped in Cameroon by an organisation known to French authorities.
They were seized at Sabongari, seven kilometres from the northern village of Dabanga near the Nigerian border, the foreign ministry said.
Asked whether the kidnapping could be a reprisal for France’s military offensive against al-Qaeda-linked groups in northern Mali, Hollande spoke of Nigeria’s Boko Haram group.
“I note in particular the presence of a terrorist group, namely Boko Haram, in that part of Cameroon, and that’s worrying enough,” he said.
A Cameroonian security source also told AFP: “We have strong suspicions regarding the Islamist sect Boko Haram,” which is blamed for killing hundreds of people in an insurgency in northern Nigeria since 2009.
Kidnappers on motorbikes
GDF Suez confirmed that one of its employees had been kidnapped with his family while holidaying in the north of the county.
A Western diplomat in the region told AFP that six armed kidnappers on three motorbikes had abducted a couple, their four children and an uncle.
It is the first time Western tourists have been kidnapped in Cameroon, although hostage taking frequently occurs off the Cameroonian coast, the last incident dating back to February 8.
Ansaru, a little-known Nigerian armed group, has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of seven foreigners in a deadly weekend raid on a construction site in the country’s north.
An analysis published on Monday by Stratfor, a US-based private global intelligence firm, suggested the group had strong ties with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the Africa branch of the network.
It warned that more attacks by Ansaru targeting Westerners and Western interests were likely in Nigeria, as well as neighbouring nations.