The seven French hostages taken by a suspected Nigerian Islamist militant group are still missing. The family members were abducted in Cameroon on Tuesday. Earlier rumours that they had been found in a house in northern Nigeria were quashed by French, Nigerian and Cameroonian officials. More details have now emerged.
In a press conference, French President Francois Hollande said: “For the moment it’s best to operate with discretion to identify the exact place where the nationals are being held, probably in two groups, and to see how we can have them released in the best conditions.”
The family of three adults and four children was on holiday in the mostly Muslim north of Cameroon, but taken over the border into neighbouring Nigeria.
Francois Sanson, a French citizen, knows the area well: “They were kidnapped in a particularly magnificent spot, the Waza Park. It attracts many tourists, and it’s a region we know to be extremely poor. The far north is poorer, and tourism is very important for the local economy.”
And Guillaume Morel, a French teacher at the Dominique Savio College in Douala told euronews that he had already been alerted about the dangers of traveling in the area: “We were given a lot of information from our consulate, to warn us to limit our movements in the north of Cameroon.”
A French special forces team arrived on Wednesday to help in the search. It is the first case of abduction for the area and a growing sign of the threat to French interests in West Africa since Paris sent around 4,000 troops to Mali.