France rules out hostage talks, pledges to do maximum | Africa | DW | 20.02.2013
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Africa

France rules out hostage talks, pledges to do maximum

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has told parliament that France will do all it can to recover a family of seven kidnapped in Cameroon and believed to now be in Nigeria. Although he also said that France "will not yield."

Laurent Fabius told France's National Assembly on Wednesday that the government would do everything in its power to recover a total of 15 hostages currently held in Africa. Seven of them, an employee of the gas group GDF Suez and his family, were taken captive in Cameroon on Tuesday and are now believed to be in Nigeria.

Fabius said that negotiations or ransom payments were not an option, but that France would seek to bring the hostages home safely.

"We must do the maximum, but nothing would be worse than yielding. We will not yield to terrorist groups," Fabius told his colleagues in the lower house of parliament, adding that there was "every indication" that the family of three adults and four children had been moved to Nigeria.

A regional governor in northern Cameroon, Augustine Fonka Awa, told Reuters by phone that French special forces had arrived to help with the investigation.

Defense Minister Jean-Yves le Drian told France 2 television that he suspected Nigerian group Boko Haram to be behind the kidnapping, though the group has not claimed responsibility for snatching the three adults and four children.

"These are groups who adhere to the same fundamentalism and who have the same methods, whether it is in Mali, in Somalia or in Nigeria," le Drian said.

Fifteen French hostages in Africa

Another French national was kidnapped in Nigeria last December, and seven more are thought to be hostages in the Sahel region - possibly in the north of Mali. In January, France decided to intervene in the divided Mali, helping the government in Bamako repel breakaway forces in the north of the country. Unconfirmed reports during the French-led advance north suggested that these hostages were being held in Timbuktu until the city was recaptured.

Fabius also alluded to these previous hostage takings when addressing parliament.

"Countries, like us, who believe in freedom must unite to battle against these terrorist groups," Fabius said, adding that even when taking preventive measures the risks of kidnappings "can never be totally eliminated."

msh/mkg (AFP, AP, Reuters)