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Islamist rebels free kidnapped French priest

AFP/The Local · 31 Dec 2013, 10:44

Published: 31 Dec 2013 10:44 GMT+01:00

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Fr. George Vandenbeusch, 42,  was abducted on November 14, near the town of Koza, about 30 kilometres (20 miles) from Nigeria, but on Tuesday Hollande announced that he had been released after six weeks in captivity.

According to France's Foreign Ministry he was picked up on Tuesday morning and is in good health, according to initial reports.

In November The Local reported how he was being held by Islamist rebels from Ansaru linked to the banned group Boko Haram.

After news of the kidnapping reached France Hollande on Thursday urged the French "not to put their lives in danger" after Vandenbeusch reportedly ignored repeated warnings he was in a risky area.

The French Foreign Ministry said it had designated the area, where seven members of a French family were kidnapped by Islamist militants in February and held hostage for two months, as a dangerous zone.

Although it had put out a travel advisory, the Roman Catholic priest "chose to remain in his parish to carry out his work," the Foreign Ministry had said.

Hollande had promised that "everything will be done" to secure the release of Vandenbeusch. After the priest's release Hollande thanked the authorities in both Nigeria and Cameroon for their work in successfully negotiating Vandenbeush's release. He reserved special thanks for Cameroon's President Paul Biya for his "personal involvement".

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is to fly to Cameroon on Tuesday to welcome the priest and accompany him back to France, at the request of the president.

Story continues below…

Boko Haram has in the past called for the creation of an Islamic state in Nigeria.

It is believed to be made up of many different factions, some of them hardcore Islamists who would resist any concessions to Nigeria's secular government.


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

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