France said on Wednesday it believes the Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram was behind the abduction of a French family of seven in Cameroon.
The family of three adults and four children were taken from a national park in the far north of the country, close to the border with Nigeria.
Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told French TV:
“We believe that it is the Boko Haram group which is behind the kidnapping, but we don’t have a signature yet. And now unfortunately, terror comes after horror. Now this group – which we think is behind it – is in the process of kidnapping children”.
Cameroon says Islamist militants have almost certainly taken the family to Nigeria. The kidnapping has shocked locals in the former French colony.
Marie Gisele Alima, who lives in the Cameroon capital Douala said: “I’m getting worried, because these are things we never hear about in our country, we are a peaceful country. We don’t have conflicts or relationships with terrorists.”
The kidnapping is the first case of foreigners being seized in the north of Cameroon. French citizens living there have been warned to leave the area as soon as possible.
“We were thinking we were sheltered here in Cameroon from Islamist groups but unfortunately now we realise that there is a strong presence of these forces around here,” said French citizen Coraline Molinie.
According to Cameroon state radio, witnesses say the three adults have been separated from the four children. Officials say they’ve put in place “urgent measures” to find the family.