Boko Haram abducts priests, nun in latest Cameroon kidnapping

Published On: April 5, 2014, 2:33 pm
Abidex Samuel
-- (m) at 5-04-2014 02:33PM

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Suspected Boko Haram gunmen seized two Italian priests and a Canadian nun in northern Cameroon overnight Saturday, in the latest kidnapping of Westerners in the remote, insurgency-wracked corner of west Africa.

The attack occurred overnight in the small parish of Tchere, which lies about 40 miles (60 kilometres) from the corner of northern Nigeria that serves as a base for the Islamist Boko Haram group.

A group of armed men pulled up at the parish shortly before midnight, according to Henri Djonyang, the region’s head vicar, information that was confirmed by police.

The gunmen ransacked the parish before seizing the priests and nun, according to news reports. The priests were identified as Giampaolo Marta and Gianantonio Allegri and the nun as Gilberte Bussier.

One of the two priests taken on Friday night had been in Cameroon for more than six years while the second had arrived around a year ago, the Ansa media agency reported.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Djonyang pointed the finger of blame at Boko Haram, who have carried out several kidnappings in the region over the past year.

“They are the ones who did it,” he said.

- Latest Westerners seized -

Kidnappings of Westerners have become common in the remote and sparsely populated region, where borders between countries are porous.

In November 2013, French Catholic priest Georges Vandenbeusch was seized by heavily armed men who burst into his parish at night and reportedly took him to neighbouring Nigeria in an attack claimed by Boko Haram.

He was released seven weeks later, touching down in Paris on January 1.

Vandenbeusch was abducted from his home near the town of Koza in northern Cameroon, about 30 kilometres (20 miles) from the Nigerian border.

He was seized by about 15 people who had first gone to the nuns’ house, apparently to look for money, giving him time to warn the embassy.

In February 2013, a Frenchman employed by gas group Suez was kidnapped in the same area together with his wife, their four children and his brother, while visiting a national park.

They were taken to neighbouring Nigeria and also held by Boko Haram, before being released in April.

France and other European countries have often been accused of paying ransoms for hostages, claims the governments have repeatedly denied.

The insurgency by Boko Haram, a group aiming to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria, has killed thousands since 2009.

Abuja in February sealed a portion of its border with Cameroon to block the movement of insurgents and other criminal groups.

Nigeria claims that the Islamists have set up bases in sparsely populated areas of its northeastern neighbours — Cameroon, Chad and Niger — and flee across the border after staging attacks to avoid military pursuit

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