Washington Post, by Edward Cody (Paris, France, Feb. 19, 2013) — Seven French tourists were kidnapped in northern Cameroon on Tuesday by what French President Francois Hollande described as a terrorist group.
Hollande, who spoke to reporters while on a visit to Greece, did not identify the terrorist group, but he said it was known to French intelligence.
The kidnapers were likely to take their captives to neighboring Nigeria, Hollande said. That prompted speculation that he was referring to Boko Haram, a radical Islamist group in Nigeria that has cooperated with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in nearby Mali.
France intervened in Mali last month to restore government control to a wide swath of the country that has been under AQIM control since last summer. It acted after AQIM fighters moved toward the Malian capital in what French officials said was an attempt to take over the entire country.
Seven other French citizens are known to be held by AQIM affiliates in northern Mali, with French officials saying they are probably hidden in mountainous terrain along the border with Algeria. An eighth French hostage is believed held in Nigeria.
It was not immediately clear if the capture of the seven additional hostages Tuesday was related to the Mali conflict.
Local officials cited by the French news agency, Agence France-Presse, said the seven hostages— three adults and four children— were from the same family and had been visiting the Waza Natural Park.
“The most probably eventuality is that they would be taken to Nigeria,” Hollande said, according to news agency reports from Athens. “So we are doing all we can to avoid their being held in that country.”