Friday, 19 April 2013

Seven members of a French family abducted in Cameroon in February have been freed unharmed

French Cameroon hostages freed

Former French hostages Tanguy Moulin-Fournier, his wife Albane and his brother Cyril pose at the French embassy in Yaounde on 19 April 2013 The adult family members have arrived at the French embassy in Yaounde

Seven members of a French family abducted in Cameroon have been freed, officials in both countries have said.

Cameroon's Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary told the BBC said they were in good condition and unharmed.

The family, including four children, were abducted in February by gunmen on motorbikes after a visit to Waza National Park in northern Cameroon.

In a video published on YouTube, militants from the Nigerian group Boko Haram claimed to be holding them.

"I spoke to the father this morning... He told me how happy and relieved he was"-Francois Hollande French president

President Francois Hollande said no ransom had been paid by France to secure the family's freedom.

Though he said secret talks had been taking place for the past few weeks to help secure their release, Reuters news agency reports.

"France has not changed its position, which is not to pay ransoms," the agency quotes him as saying at a news conference in Paris.

"I spoke to the father this morning... He told me how happy and relieved he was."

The release of the hostages was announced on national radio in Cameroon on Friday morning.

The statement from the presidency said they had been handed over to Cameroon authorities late on Thursday.


According to the Associated Press news agency, both the Nigerian and French governments were thanked in the statement.

The family has now arrived at the French embassy in the capital, Yaounde, with a heavy security escort, AFP news agency reports.

The French president's office said that Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius had immediately left for Cameroon to greet the family, the agency said.

Mr Fabius told AFP the French hostage were freed overnight "in an area between Nigeria and Cameroon".

Prisoner demand :

The family, who live in the Cameroonian capital, Yaounde, where the father worked for the French gas group Suez, had been returning from a holiday when they were kidnapped on 19 February.

Still from the video alleged to show the French victims The family, kidnapped on 19 February, is thought to have been held in Nigeria

In the YouTube video released about a week after their capture, the militants demanded the release of prisoners in Cameroon and Nigeria.

One of them also criticised President Hollande for sending troops to fight Islamist militants in northern Mali in January.

"Let the French president know that he has launched war against Islam," he said.

The French-led operation in Mali has ousted the Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda's North African branch, from cities and town in the vast desert region they had captured a year ago in the wake of a coup.

Nigeria has contributed troops to a regional African force which has begun deploying to Mali to take over from French troops.

One of the hostages in the video said his captors were "Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad" - the official name for Boko Haram, as the Islamist group is popularly known in Nigeria.

Boko Haram, which began its insurgency following a deadly crackdown on its members in 2009, had previously said it was not involved in hostage taking.

It has usually followed a Nigerian agenda, and says it wants to establish an Islamic state.

During its insurgency at least 2,000 people have been kill in northern and parts of central Nigeria.

Another Islamist group, Ansaru - which was formed in 2012 and is believed to have links to al-Qaeda - is also active in northern Nigeria and has been involved in abducting foreigners.

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