A French family of seven was kidnapped by armed men on Tuesday in northern Cameroon. The abduction has been confirmed by French President François Hollande and speculated to be the work of an Islamic extremist sect.
The incident occurred early Tuesday in Cameroon’s Far North Region, according to officials. The victims, a French family of seven that includes four children, were reportedly grabbed in Dandanga, near the Nigerian border.
According to The Associated Press, government officials have mounted an extensive search for the family of seven, employing the use of military helicopters. The region’s Governor Augustin Fonka Awah is personally accompanying search teams in the field.
Jean-David Ndjigba, Far North Regional Delegate in the Ministry of Forest and Wildlife, told the news service the following:
“The three adult tourists and four children were picked up early today (Tuesday) morning by men riding on motorbikes who rode off toward the border into Nigeria.”
“As I speak to you right now, helicopters are flying over the entire province, and specifically in the administrative area of Waza in search of the kidnapped tourists.”
Located in the Far North Region of Cameroon, Waza Park is a natural wildlife reserve popular with foreign tourists. According to a report by Reuters, the family of seven visited the park yesterday and camped at the location overnight.
The family, who has not yet been identified, reportedly left Waza this morning. A witness told The Associated Press that a group of armed men on motorbikes abducted the French family at gunpoint, forcing them from their car and taking them across the nearby border into Nigeria.
The abduction was carried out in front of several onlookers, according to one of the witnesses:
“Nobody could help the white men because the kidnappers were heavily armed and they threatened to shoot anyone that approached.”
The family of seven kidnapped this morning are reportedly the first Western tourists to be abducted in Cameroon.