French military and intelligence officers have entered northern Cameroon in search of a family of seven French tourists kidnapped Tuesday from a national park media reports indicate.
The family was kidnapped from Waza National Park, a thickly forested area of northern Cameroon popular among tourists and located near the border with Nigeria.
The abductees include four children ages 5 to 12, their parents and an uncle, the Cameroon’s state broadcaster CRTV reported.
The incident has raised fears of Westerners being targeted by Islamist militant groups in Africa in the wake of France’s military intervention in Mali.
The Paris-based private network BFMTV did not cite its source; it posted a team of journalists Wednesday in Paris at the French Foreign Ministry Crisis Center, which is handling the country’s response to the crisis.
BFMTV, citing the French Defense Ministry, said gendarmes had been sent to the site in northern Cameroon where the abduction occurred to investigate.
But a Cameroonian official said Wednesday that he believed the family had been taken across the border into neighboring Nigeria within hours of their abduction.
Joseph Dion Ngute, the Foreign Ministry official in charge of ties with Commonwealth nations, said Tuesday’s incident marked the first time foreigners in Cameroon had been taken captive by suspected Islamic militants of Nigeria’s Boko Haram movement.
"The intentions of the kidnappers are yet to be known," he said.
French officials blamed the incident on Boko Haram, which has taken advantage of Nigeria’s porous borders with Chad and Cameroon in its three-year campaign.