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Boko Haram suspects kidnap French priest in Northern Cameroon

France said it is trying to confirm the identity of the kidnappers.

Nigeria had complained that the Far North was being used by Boko Haram militants to transport weapons and appealed to Cameroon to tighten border security.

The U.S. formally designated Boko Haram and another Nigerian Islamist militant group, Ansaru, as foreign terrorist organisations on Wednesday, making it a crime to provide them with material support.

The kidnapping was the latest in a series of attacks on French targets in West Africa since France launched a military intervention in Mali in January to oust al Qaeda Islamists there.

The Far North province of Cameroon is francophone, but English is the language of neighbouring community in Nigeria.

Mr. Vandenbeusch arrived in Cameroon in 2011, having previously been a priest in the Paris suburb of Sceaux and decided to stay in the region, which France considers to be high risk for kidnappings and warned its citizens to leave.

A church official told Radio France International, RFI, that English-speaking gunmen burst into the parish Church of Nguetchewe, a village some 10 km from the Nigerian border, demanding money on Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, France’s Foreign Ministry said checks were underway to establish the identity of the kidnappers.

The official said when the gunmen discovered the priest, Georges Vandenbeusch, they marched him bare-foot across the village and fled on motorbikes.

Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau

(Reuters/NAN)

“We have good reasons to believe that it may have been people from Nigeria and Boko Haram in particular,” Mr. Marsaud said.

Alain Marsaud, a French lawmaker representing voters based overseas, told France Info radio that Mr. Vandenbeusch was in a meeting with some nuns and other people when the armed men took him.

Augustine Fonka Awa, the governor of Cameroon’s Far North region, told Reuters that he had gone to Nguetchewe with security forces to investigate the kidnapping but expressed fears that the priest had been taken to Nigeria.

Cameroonian authorities, on Thursday, said gunmen had kidnapped a French priest working in the lawless region of northern Cameroon; nine months after Boko Haram members seized a French family in the same area.

Also, the Vicar-General of Maroua Village, Henri Djionyang, told RFI that some motorbikes later crossed the frontier to Nigeria and their riders started to celebrate, adding that “it is likely the gunmen took the priest to Nigeria.’’

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