France will not negotiate with Cameroon Islamists
ReutersPARIS--France will not negotiate with gunmen claiming to be from Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram who have taken a French family of seven hostage, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Tuesday.
February 27, 2013, 12:08 am TWN
The three adults and four children were seized in north Cameroon near the Nigerian border last week. In a video posted online, the gunmen threatened to kill them unless authorities in Nigeria and Cameroon freed Islamist militants held there.
The kidnapping brought to 15 the number of French citizens held in central and west Africa and highlighted the danger to French nationals and interests in the region since Paris sent troops to Mali last month to help oust Islamist rebels.
Le Drian said the fighting in Mali was not close to an end and troops were facing stiff resistance from the “strongest and most organized” rebels, underscoring the risk of French and African forces becoming entangled in a messy guerrilla war.
The French defense minister deplored the fact children were among the hostages seized in Cameroon and ruled out talks with their captors, saying: “We do not play this bidding game because that's terrorism.”
“We do not negotiate on that kind of basis, with these kind of groups,” he told RTL radio. “We will use all (other) possible means to ensure these and other hostages are freed.”
The abduction was the first case of foreigners being seized in the mostly Muslim north of Cameroon, a former French colony. But the region — with typically porous borders — is considered within the operational sphere of Boko Haram and fellow Nigerian Islamist militants Ansaru.
Boko Haram, one of a number of al-Qaida linked groups in the region, has killed hundreds of people in an attempt to establish an Islamist state in Nigeria.
The video posted online on Monday showed the hostages, including the four boys, surrounded by three gunmen wearing turbans and camouflage gear.
“The president of France has launched a war on Islam and we are fighting it everywhere,” said one of the apparent kidnappers, identifying himself as a member of Boko Haram.