France says the Islamist militant group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of seven French nationals captured in Cameroon last week. A hostage video has also been released on YouTube.
The family of seven was kidnapped last Tuesday while vacationing in the north of the country. The French gas corporation, GDF Suez, identified the captives as one of its employees and members of his family. The father was working in the Cameroon's capital Yaounde for GDF Suez.
"A video of the French family kidnapped last Tuesday in northern Cameroon has been released by Boko Haram," Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement on Monday. "For all of us, these images are terribly shocking. They display a cruelty without bounds. We are proceeding with the checks required in these circumstances. All state resources are mobilized to free our compatriots."
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the family was probably being held in Nigeria. Like Fabius, Ayrault said French agents were scouring the video.
"The video tape... is being studied by our [intelligence] services, who are examining precisely the nature of these claims," Ayrault said. "French authorities are in close and permanent contact with Nigerian and Cameroonian authorities."
In the video, which appears to show the hostages, an adult man reads from a pre-prepared statement. Major French newspaper Le Figaro reported that he resembled Tanguy Moulin-Fournier, the father of the family. He was huddled together with two other adults and three children. None of them were visibly injured.
The man, speaking just three sentences, in French, said the group had been taken hostage. "They want their brothers who are imprisoned in Cameroon to be freed. They want their women who are imprisoned in Nigeria to be freed."
Three of the captors could be seen, but their faces were hidden with headgear and sunglasses. Two were standing behind the family on either side, while the other knelt in the foreground. He then spoke for the remainder of the video, for roughly three minutes.
"If you want us to free these French citizens, swiftly release all of our women who you are detaining," he said in Arabic, addressing the Nigerian authorities.
"We are also looking at the president of Cameroon [Paul Biya], that he swiftly release our brothers detained in his prisons," the captor also said.
The news agency AFP said a source close to the family had confirmed that they were the people pictured in the video. The location where the video was filmed was unclear, as was the time of recording.
jr/msh (AFP, Reuters)