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French family kidnapped in Cameroon set free

AFP/The Local · 19 Apr 2013, 09:46

Published: 19 Apr 2013 09:46 GMT+02:00

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A French family of seven kidnapped by Islamic extremists in Cameroon in February have been freed and are in the hands of officials in the central African state, President Paul Biya said.

Biya made the announcement in a statement read on national radio which said the hostages - a father, mother, four children aged 5 to 12, and an uncle - had been "handed over last night to Cameroonian authorities".

The release was confirmed by the French President's office at the Elysée Palace on Friday.

"It is with great relief and joy as the President of the Republic confirms the release of seven members of the Moulin-Fournier Family," read a statement from the Elysée.

France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has left immediately for Cameroon to greet the family, the Elysée said. According to reports in the French media the hostages will be flown back to France on a French plane on Saturday.

"I spoke to the family on the phone. They are extremely happy and in good shape," Fabius told AFP, adding the hostages were freed overnight on Thursday to Friday "in an area between Nigeria and Cameroon."

A person close to the released family, who refused to be named, burst out in joy on the phone to AFP.

"They're free, they're free at last! It's amazing, after two months of never-ending waiting," the person said.

The hostages were seized by the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram on February 19 while visiting a national park in northern Cameroon.

They are believed to have then been taken over the border into Nigeria's restive northeast.

Story continues below…

Boko Haram last month ran an audio recording of Tanguy Moulin-Fournier, the father, in which he seemingly asked President Biya to free detained members of the Al-Qaeda-linked group.

Boko Haram is believed to include a number of factions with various interests and shifting demands.

The group has in the past called for the creation of an Islamic state in Nigeria, where corruption is deeply rooted and most of the population lives on less than $2 per day despite its vast oil reserves.

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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