French hostages taken into Nigeria
Updated: 2013-02-21 09:02
Waza natural Park, in northern Cameroon. Seven French tourists, three adults and four children, were kidnapped on Tuesday by unidentified men in northern Cameroon, near the border with Nigeria. [Photo/Agencies]
Security increased around Cameroon as military helicopters search for family.
Kidnappers who seized seven members of a French family - including four young children - in Cameroon have taken them across the border into Nigeria, Cameroon's government has said.
The family - a couple, their children aged 5, 8, 10 and 12, and an uncle - were snatched by six gunmen on three motorbikes on Tuesday.
The abduction of the vacationing family comes amid fears of Islamist reprisals over France's military offensive against al-Qaida-linked groups in Mali.
"The kidnappers have gone across the border into Nigeria with their hostages," Cameroon's foreign ministry said in a statement aired on state television and radio.
The family was abducted early on Tuesday at Sabongari, 7 km from the northern village of Dabanga near the Nigerian border, the foreign ministry said.
They had earlier visited Waza National Park in the north of the country, according to a source close to the French embassy in Cameroon.
French energy group GDF Suez confirmed that one of its employees based in Cameroon's capital, Yaounde, had been kidnapped along with his family while on vacation in the northern part of the West African country.
French President Francois Hollande said during a visit to Athens that he had been informed of the kidnapping, suspected to have been carried out by a Nigerian "terrorist group that we know well".
"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, adding at the time that France was doing everything possible to prevent the kidnappers from moving their prisoners to Nigeria.
Cameroonian military helicopters are searching for the vacationing French family in the country, and security around the region is being increased.
Cameroonian President Paul Biya ordered tight security measures and urgent steps to free the hostages.
"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, according to a local security source.