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French special forces join search for family of 7 kidnapped in Africa

Marc Preel / AFP - Getty Images

The French family, including four children, kidnapped in Cameroon on Tuesday were visiting Waza National Park, a source at the nature preserve said.

French special forces arrived in northern Cameroon on Wednesday to try to help locate a French family of seven, including four children, who were kidnapped by people thought to be Islamist militants and taken into Nigeria, officials in Cameroon said.

The abduction highlights the growing risk of attacks on French nationals and interests in Africa since Paris sent forces into Mali to oust Islamist rebels occupying the country's north.

Ian Langsdon / EPA

French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius confirmed the abduction in Cameroon of the family of seven at a Tuesday news conference.

Speaking on French television, Joseph Dion Ngute, a junior minister at the foreign ministry, said the kidnappers had put the hostages on motorcycles after their car broke down.

"They then took another woman hostage with her car and fled into Nigeria," he said. "Our forces and the Nigerian forces were alerted, but before they reacted the kidnappers had vanished."

It was not clear what had happened to the additional female hostage.

Security in the Dabanga area, six miles from the Nigerian border, where they were taken has been reinforced and "urgent measures" to locate the family have been put in place, he said.

It is the first case of foreigners being seized in the mostly Muslim north of Cameroon, a former French colony. But the region -- like others in West and North Africa with typically porous borders -- is considered to be within the operational sphere of Nigerian Islamist militant groups Boko Haram and Ansaru.

The father of the family, which included four children ages 5 to 12, worked for utility firm GDF Suez. French television reported that the father was from a family of winemakers in the Burgundy region.

Nigerian army spokesman Col. Sagir Musa said the armed forces were on alert, "ready to apprehend any criminal elements or terrorists that come into our areas."


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