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Africa

French family kidnapped by suspected Islamists in Cameroon

A French family of seven, including four children, has been kidnapped near a national park in northern Cameroon. French President Francois Hollande suggested that a Nigerian terrorist group was responsible.

A group of gunmen on motorbikes kidnapped a French family of seven on Tuesday, after they had visited the Waza national park near Cameroon's border with Nigeria.

The gunmen intercepted the family in their car near the city of Dabanga and forced them to drive to the Nigerian border, where the vehicle was later found abandoned, according to an aide close to the governor of Cameroon's Far North Region. The parents of the family worked for a French firm based in Cameroon.

"They have been taken by a terrorist group that we know and that is in Nigeria," French President Francois Hollande told reporters during a visit to Greece on Tuesday.

French citizens have long been targeted for abduction in North and West Africa. But Islamist groups have sworn retaliation for the recent French military intervention in northern Mali. In total, 15 French nationals are currently being held captive in Africa.

"I see the hand of Boko Haram in that part of Cameroon,” Hollande said. “France is in Mali, and it will continue until its mission is completed.”

Murky militant ties in West Africa

The Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which means Western religion is sacrilege, has been primarily active in northern Nigeria. The group is responsible for at least 792 killings in 2012 alone, according to a tally by the Associate Press, primarily targeting Christians and security forces in Nigeria.

Boko Haram has reported ties with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which has played a major role in the war in Mali. A French soldier was killed fighting against Islamists militants in northern Mali on Tuesday, France's second casualty of the war there. Paris said that 20 Islamist militants were killed during the joint French-Malian operation in the rugged Adrar des Ifoghas region.

On Monday, an Islamist group named Ansaru claimed responsibility for kidnapping seven foreign workers at a construction site in northern Nigeria. French nationals were not abducted in that incident. But Ansaru is a suspected splinter group of Boko Haram.

"If everything is confirmed, this signifies that the fight against terrorist groups is a necessity," Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in Paris. "There is a battle to be led by the international community against terrorist groups and narco-terrorists.”

slk/dr (AP, AFP, Reuters)