Members of a French family kidnapped in northern Cameroon earlier this week have been released. The seven hostages had been seized by Islamist militants while on an excursion near the country’s border with Nigeria.
The three adults and four children were found in a house in the Nigerian town of Dikwa on Thursday, according to the French news broadcaster BFM.
"The hostages are safe and sound and are in the hands of Nigerian authorities," a Cameroonian military officer told BFM.
The AFP news agency quoted an anonymous source who made a similar statement.
The French foreign ministry said it was trying to confirm the reports.
The French minister for veterans' affairs, Kader Arif, who interrupted a session of the National Assembly to announce that the hostages had been freed, later conceded that there was "no official confirmation at this stage."
The seven hostages were kidnapped on Tuesday while vacationing in the north of the country. The French gas corporation GDF Suez identified the captives as one of its employees based in Cameroon's capital, Yaounde and members of his family.
Their release came a day after French special forces had arrived in the country to assist their Cameroonian counterparts in the search for the hostages.
No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and no concrete connection has been established between the kidnapping and the deployment of French troops to help Malian forces fighting against Islamist rebels last month.
However, France's defense minister pointed the finger at members of Nigeria's Boko Haram Islamist group.
"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," Jean-Yves le Drian told France 2 television.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius pledged that France would do all it could to recover the hostages, but ruled out paying a ransom for their release.
"We will not yield to terrorist groups," Fabius told members of the National Assembly.
Following the news of the kidnapping, foreign ministry warned French citizens to avoid travel in northern Cameroon and urged anyone currently in the region to leave immediately.
pfd/rg (Reuters, AFP)