A French family of seven on vacation in northern Camaroon were kidnapped Tuesday by what is being described as a terrorist group. Officials are investigating the involvement of a Nigerian extremist Islamic sect called Ansaru in the kidnapping.
The Associated Press reported that a Camaroonian trader, who did not want to be identified for safety reasons, saw the kidnapping as he was driving back from Nigeria. He said that the French family was attempting to get their vehicle unstuck from the sand when a group of armed men on motorcycles rode up and forced them out of the vehicle at gunpoint. The hostages were then taken by the armed men.
The kidnapping occurred near the town of Dabanga, which is only four miles from the Nigerian border. According to witnesses, the hostages were taken in the direction of the Nigerian border.
"Nobody could help the white men because the kidnappers were heavily armed and they threatened to shoot anyone that approached," said the trader.
A French official told AP that they believe the family is in Nigeria, where the extremist group Ansaru claimed responsibility for a separate kidnapping of seven other foreigners on Monday.
The Camaroonian government has announced that they are using military helicopters to look for the tourists
"As I speak to you right now, helicopters are flying over the entire province, and specifically in the administrative area of Waza in search of the kidnapped tourists," said Jean-David Ndjigba, who is the Far North Regional Delegate in the Ministry of Forest and Wildlife.
The family was likely visiting Waza Park, which is a natural wildlife reserve in the Far North Region that attracts western tourists. The region is known to suffer from groups of bandits who raid the area and abduct locals for ransom money.
Francois Hollande, the French President, has warned French citizens to be careful in West Africa because of an ongoing ant-terrorism campaign France is undertaking in the region. Including the family kidnapped Tuesday, 15 French citizens have been abducted in the area.
Stratfor, a U.S.-based private global intelligence firm, said Monday that this may only be the beginning of a series of attacks on Westerners in West Africa.