7 French Hostages Taken In Western Africa, Bringing Total Number to 15

Map of Cameroon. Waza Park is located in the north. By United States Central Intelligence Agency [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Map of Cameroon. Waza Park is located in the north. By United States Central Intelligence Agency [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Around 7:00 am local time Tuesday February 19, seven French tourists were taken at gunpoint in Cameroon merely two days after seven other foreigners were seized from a construction site in Nigeria. The seven French citizens are from the same family, four of whom are children. The family was visiting Waza national park near Lake Chad, both of which are popular tourist destinations for foreigners. Local witnesses stated that the armed abductors rode into the small village on motorbikes and, following the kidnapping, headed towards the North-eastern Nigerian border. François Hollande released a statement blaming the attack on a group of Islamist militants in the region, Boko Haram.

This abduction comes on the heels of another such attack in Nigeria Sunday February 17th where a second Islamist militant group, Ansaru, seized seven foreign construction workers from their company’s site in northeastern Nigeria. Ansaru and Boko Haram are known to be aligned with Al-Qaeda in the region. The timing of both kidnappings, in addition to the seizure of eight other French citizens in the Sahel region by the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQAM), indicates that the Islamist militants are reacting to the French intervention in nearby Mali. AQAM in particular was active in the country before fleeing the French offensive last month.

Though Mali kidnappers had released hostages before for multi-billion dollar ransoms, the current situation in Mali makes this resolution extremely unlikely. Two foreigners taken by Ansaru in March 2011 were killed by their captors after an unsuccessful attempt to recover them. However, in Cameroon, this kidnapping is believed to be the first such incident in the country. Ansaru announced their reason for taking the hostages was to avenge “the transgression and atrocities done to the religion of Allah by the European countries in many places, such as Afghanistan and Mali.” Fearful that these Islamist insurgents have banded together in West Africa under AQAM’s leadership, Hollande and his British counterpart, David Cameron, are unsure of how to proceed. At this time, nothing more is known of the French family’s location.

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  1. […] in the West African country has since continued to escalate with fierce fire-fights and the numerous kidnappings of international citizens in the region.  Though the French troops succeeded in driving the rebels […]

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