French family abducted by Boko Haram in Cameroon freed
Abuja: A French family of seven, including four children, kidnapped at gunpoint in northern Cameroon by Nigerian Islamic extremist group Boko Haram has been freed after two months in captivity.
Officials of Nigeria and Cameroon said the released persons were in good condition and would soon be handed over to their home country.
The French gas group GDF Suez has identified the captives as an employee who worked in Yaounde and his family.
According to Cameroon's communications minister, Tchiroma Bakary, the freed family include four children. The vacationing group comprised three adults and four children, whom French media reported were between 5 and 12 years old.
Gerard Mastrallet, the head of GDF, said the hostages were freed in a military operation, but did not offer details. "We were not involved in any negotiations but we knew that French authorities were very active," Mastrallet said in an interview with RTL radio.
The Feb 19 kidnapping came as thousands of French troops were deeply involved in a military intervention against Islamic extremists in the West African country of Mali, and the French statement recalled that eight other French citizens are still being held hostage in the Sahel region of Africa.
The sect took them hostage from Waza National Park in the northern Cameroon, from where it was believed, they were taken to Nigeria.
Last month, a video surfaced showing a man who appeared to be Tanguy Moulin-Fournier. The man said his family was in the custody of the Islamic radical sect known as Boko Haram which wants all its members freed, especially women and children held in Nigerian and Cameroonian custody.
Boko Haram has been waging a campaign of bombings and shootings across Nigeria's north. They are held responsible for more than 790 deaths last year alone, and dozens more since the beginning of this year.
Moulin-Fournier said his family was not doing well in captivity. "We lose force (strength) every day and start to be sick; we will not stay very long like this," he said in the recording.
Boko Haram later appeared on a YouTube video claiming to have captured them in retaliation to France's intervention in Mali where extremists are threatening the government.
Sources said Nigerian officials handed over the former hostages to Cameroon late yesterday. It was not clear if any ransom was paid to secure their release.
Neither Nigeria nor Cameroon reported any Boko Haram members were freed.
Boko Haram says it has an agenda of turning some parts or the whole of Nigeria into a Muslim state and has been waging a campaign of bombings and shootings across Nigeria's north. It has killed thousands of people since 2009 but rarely embark on kidnappings. But a splinter group called Ansaru engages in abduction of foreigners.