A French family of seven was kidnapped at gunpoint on Tuesday in Cameroon by a group being identified as Islamic extremists. Authorities say they have helicopters flying over the area in an attempt to locate the family, who are tourists.
Witnesses said the family’s vehicle got stuck in the sand, and while they were prone, a group of armed men rode up on motorbikes and forced them to leave the vehicle. Many saw the whole thing, but were frightened into inaction because the men threatened to kill them. The family includes three adults and four children, but names and ages haven’t been given at this time.
Officials say a natural wildlife preserve often attracts tourists to the region, which make it a prime target for kidnappings for ransom and other crimes. French president Francois Hollande says that French tourists are putting themselves in a dangerous situation by visiting West Africa, because the country is engaged in a military campaign there to expose jihadists and stop them from a northern takeover.
“I see the hand of (Nigerian militants) Boko Haram in that part of Cameroon. France is in Mali, and it will continue until its mission is completed,” Hollande said.
On Sunday, another kidnapping claimed seven victims in nearby Nigeria, for which the al-Qaida-linked group Ansaru took responsibility. That group has yet to be found. A statement from the group said the kidnappings were in retaliation for “the transgression and atrocities done to the religion of Allah by the European countries in many places, such as Afghanistan and Mali.”