A search is under way for a French priest who was kidnapped overnight in northern Cameroon, the country’s security forces said Thursday. A French family was kidnapped in the area by Boko Haram Islamists in February before being released months later.
A search is under way for a French Catholic priest who was kidnapped overnight in northern Cameroon, the French foreign ministry (Quai d’Orsay) and Cameroonian security forces confirmed on Thursday.
Georges Vandenbeusch was abducted near the town of Koza, about 30 kilometres from the Cameroon-Nigeria border, a region where the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram is known to operate.
The parish priest of Nguetchewe, a settlement near Koza, Vandenbeusch was seized by unknown gunmen and led barefoot through the village before he was taken to an unknown location on a motorbike, according to FRANCE 24’s sister station, RFI.
A statement by the French foreign ministry said the region lies in an area designated a “red zone” by the ministry’s crisis centre and French nationals are formally discouraged from visiting the area due to terrorist threats and the risk of kidnapping.
Vandenbeusch had chosen to stay in
A search mission is underway to verify the circumstances of the abduction and the identity of the kidnappers, according to the French foreign ministry.
French family kidnapped near border and released
On February 19, a French family of seven, including four children, was kidnapped in the same region by Boko Haram and released two months later. The family was taken from the town of Dadanga, 6 kilometres from the Nigerian border, after visiting the Waza Park nature reserve.
The kidnapping of the French priest came a day after the US officially designated Boko Haram a foreign terrorist organisation.
Founded in the northeastern Nigerian town of Maiduguri around 2002, Boko Haram – which in the local Hausa language means “Western education is sacrilege” – aims to implement strict Sharia law across Nigeria, a multi-ethnic nation of more than 160 million people split largely into a Muslim majority north and a Christian and animist south.
In recent months, following a Nigerian military crackdown, Boko Haram fighters have been pushed toward the northern border with Cameroon and have been infiltrating the neighbouring nation in the hilly border areas.