Malian soldiers at Gossi checkpoint
Malian soldiers at Gossi checkpointReuters

 A French family of seven, including four children, has been abducted by the Nigeria-based radical Islamist “Boko Haram” terrorist organization. The kidnappers moved the family yesterday from the far north of Cameroon, where they were abducted, to neighboring Nigeria, where Boko Haram is based. 

An Islamist group which strongly opposes man-made laws and modern science, the organization was founded by Mohammed Yusuf in 2001 and seeks to establish Shari'a (Islamic law) in the country. The group is also known for attacking Christians and bombing churches, and has been responsible for at least 450 killings. 

Among those kidnapped were the two parents, an uncle and four children ages five, eight, 10 and 12. They were abducted Tuesday by six gunmen on three motor bikes while traveling near the Waza nature reserve. Their vehicle was later discovered in a river near the Cameroon border with Nigeria. 

The father in the family is an employee in French gas company GDF Suez. 

Police in both countries are involved in the investigation.

“We believe that the Boko Haram carried out this kidnapping but we don’t yet have a claim of responsibility,” French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France 2 Television on Tuesday night. “These are groups that claim the same fundamentalism, who use the same methods, whether it’s in Mali, Somallia or Nigeria.”

A decision by France to help the African nation of Mali stop radical Islamist terrorists from seizing control of the country has led to numerous attacks against French nationals, its foreign affairs ministry noted in a statement on its website. The Mali conflict, in which Nigeria has chosen to fight alongside France, as “given rise to threats against French interest and expatriates,” the ministry wrote.

Some 4,000 French troops are in Mali at present, but Le Drian said earlier this month that France had reached its maximum deployment. The French army plans to begin to hand over operations to Malian troops – also numbering 4,000 – some time in March, in order to focus on fighting radical Islamist terrorists in northern Mali.

France has issued a warning to its citizens following the kidnapping, telling its nationals to leave northern Cameroon “as quickly as possible.” The ministry also advised against travel to areas bordering Nigeria until further notice.  At least 6,200 French citizens are currently registered as residents of Cameroon, although it is not known how many others are transient in the African nation.