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KIDNAPPING

France denies kidnapped family found safe

France's Foreign Ministry has denied earlier reports from military sources that the French family kidnapped in the north of the country has been released. The ministry warned against "spreading premature information".

France denies kidnapped family found safe
Parc National Waza, where the French family had visite shortly before being kidnapped. Photo: AFP

France on Thursday denied a claim that seven members of a French family kidnapped this week in northern Cameroon by suspected Islamists had been freed.

The French foreign ministry said in a statement that it formally "denied the information that the French hostages had been released".

France's foreign ministry also warned against "spreading premature information". A security source close to the case in Nigeria said there were "serious doubts" about whether the family had been freed.

A Cameroon minister also denied earlier reports the family had been found safe and well.

"It is a wild rumour. If this was true, the Cameroonian government would have already given the information to France," said Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary.

Earlier a Cameroonian military source told AFP the seven members of a French family who were seized had been found in northern Nigeria.

"The hostages are safe and sound and are in the hands of Nigerian authorities," the source said on condition of anonymity. "They were found abandoned in a house in Dikwa" in northern Nigeria, the source added.

France's BFMTV also reported the release, quoting military sources. France's Europe1 radio said the family were in the process of being repatriated, quoting diplomatic sources.

However authorities in Nigeria and Cameroon are yet to confirm the release. A French minister who initially confirmed the release to AFP apparently backtracked immediately, later declaring he could not confirm the family had been found.

The family – a couple, their children aged five, eight, ten and 12 and an uncle – were snatched in northern Cameroon by six gunmen on three motorbikes on Tuesday and officials said they had been taken across the border into Nigeria.

France has said it suspects Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram was behind the abduction.

Earlier in the week French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said France would not give in to terrorists. Seeming to exclude the possibility of paying a ransom, Fabius told the National Assembly: "We must do the maximum [to free the hostages] but nothing would be worse than yielding. We will not yield to terrorist groups."

Updates to follow.

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RESTAURANT

Another person charged in Nice hotelier ‘kidnapping’ case

Another person has been charged over the suspected kidnapping of a millionaire French hotel magnate, who was found tied up in the back of a van in 2016, the prosecutor in Nice said on Friday.

Another person charged in Nice hotelier 'kidnapping' case
The Grand Hotel in Cannes, co-owned by Jacqueline Veyrac. Photo: Valery Hache/AFP

Jacqueline Veyrac, 76, the owner of the Michelin-starred La Reserve restaurant in the French Riviera city of Nice was snatched last October as she was getting into her SUV.

She was discovered 48 hours later after being spotted by a passerby bound, gagged and tied to the van's floor.

The legal development comes after five people, four men and a woman, were questioned by investigators about their possible participation in the kidnapping after being arrested earlier this week.

In total, 16 people have already been implicated in the case, including nine who have been imprisoned.

The former manager of a gourmet restaurant in Nice, identified as Giuseppe S, is suspected of ordering the kidnapping because he harboured a grudge against Veyrac.

Originally from Turin, he managed La Reserve from 2007 until 2009 when his company went into liquidation.

Investigators believe this caused him to resent Veyrac, and suspect the kidnapping was a bid to recover money lost during the liquidation by demanding a ransom from those close to her.

Veyrac, whose husband died five years ago, co-owns the five-star Grand Hotel, as well as La Reserve, with one of her sons.

Veyrac was targeted in another attempted kidnapping in 2013, commissioned by the same man, according to the investigation.