French special forces have arrived in Cameroon in a bid to track down four children and three adults from the same family who have been kidnapped by Islamist militants. The four children, who were seized on Tuesday, have been separated from their parents according to the Cameroon government.
The children – the youngest aged five and the oldest 12 – were taken away in a different direction soon after the group was abducted while on a visit to Waza National Park, a popular tourist destination. Their father worked for a French gas company, GDF Suez, in the capital, Yaounde.
The captives are believed to have been taken into Nigeria, where pirates stormed an oil service ship in the south of the country, seizing six foreign workers from Ukraine, India and Russia. The attack appeared to be for criminal rather than political motives in an area of the country where there are frequent raids for ransoms. A police spokesman confirmed the hostage-takers have demanded $1.3m for their release.
The family taken from Cameroon, however, appear to be in the hands of jihadist militants, with French president François Hollande blaming the Nigerian group Boko Haram. Seven more Western nationals, including a Briton, Lebanese, one Greek and one Italian, were kidnapped at a construction site in the northern state of Bauchi by Ansaru, an offshoot of Boko Haram, earlier this week. The kidnappings are thought to be in retaliation for the recent French intervention in Mali.