Paris denies release of hostages taken in Cameroon
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France’s foreign ministry has denied rumours on Thursday that the seven French nationals kidnapped in Cameroon had been released, echoing a statement by Cameroon’s communication minister.
A French foreign ministry spokesman denied reports on Thursday of the liberation of seven French hostages kidnapped in Cameroon two days ago, following international confusion over the affair.
French President François Hollande said Thursday that the French family kidnapped in Cameroon was likely being held in two groups.
"We are fully cooperating with Nigerian and Cameroonian authorities to find the location where our citizens are being held," Hollande told reporters. "For the moment the best thing is to work with some discretion, to first of all identify the exact place where our citizens are being held, probably in two groups, and how we would be able to free them under the best conditions."
“We cannot confirm this morning’s information that [the hostages] were free,” Didier Le Bret, the director of the crisis cell at the ministry told FRANCE 24. “We contacted the families of the hostages to tell them that we had no information that supported the claims”.
Le Bret added that it was important to be “careful” about relaying information coming out of Cameroon about the hostages.
Earlier in the day, a government minister was forced to backtrack after announcing the French nationals were free during a parliamentary session.
Confusion first arose when a Cameroonian army officer said that the French family had been found alive in a house in northern Nigeria and were safe with Nigerian authorities.
The Cameroonian communications minister later denied the reports in an on-camera interview with FRANCE 24.
The Moulin-Fournier family was abducted near Cameroon’s Waza National Park on Tuesday, only a few kilometres from the Nigerian border. The father is the local Director of External Affairs at the French gas company GDF, who has been stationed in Cameroon’s capital of Yaoundé for two years. The seven family members include four children, aged five, eight, 10 and 12.
Witnesses told Cameroonian and French media that men armed with Kalashnikovs seized the family from their car, separated the adults from the children and sped away from the scene on motorcycles.
French President François Hollande has condemned the abduction as an “odious” act, noting that “This is the first time that children have been taken hostage in this manner”.
On Wednesday, France’s Foreign Ministry urged its citizens in northern Cameroon “to leave the area as quickly as possible,” issuing an advisory against travel in regions bordering Nigeria until further notice.
It could not say how many French citizens are believed to be in the north but 6,200 in total are registered as living in Cameroon.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius added that France would not give in to “terrorists”, an apparent warning that a ransom would not be considered.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)