Twenty-Seven Hostages Released in CameroonOctober 14, 2014 in Cameroon
Cameroon’s President confirmed Saturday that twenty-seven hostages, kidnapped earlier this year in raids blamed on Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram, have been released in Cameroon.
According to a statement released by the office of President Paul Biya, “the 27 hostages abducted on May 16 in Waza and July 27 in Kolofata were released to the Cameroonian authorities this night.” The ten Chinese citizens, and seventeen other local hostages, including the wife of Cameroon’s deputy prime minister, are all “safe and sound.”
In mid-May, a group of ten Chinese construction workers was seized from a construction camp in Waza, in Cameroon’s Far North region near the border with Nigeria, in an attack that left one Cameroonian soldier dead. While in June, Cameroonian authorities had disclosed that six people had been arrested in connection to the kidnappings of the Chinese citizens, no further information pertaining to their whereabouts was released. The seventeen locals, including Francoise Agnes Moukouri, the wife of vice prime minster Amadou Ali, were kidnapped in July during two simultaneous assaults that targeted their residence in the border town of Kolofata. A military spokesman had indicated at the time that as the fighter retreated with the hostages, they set fire to the residence, stole safes and vehicles and killed at least fifteen people. Both attacks were blamed on Boko Haram. A local religious leader who was also abducted in the July attack was amongst those released Saturday.
Cameroon shares a border of more than 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) with Nigeria, where Boko Haram has been waging a deadly insurgency since 2009. While the group did not specifically claim responsibility for these kidnappings, they have been involved in a number of other abductions, including the kidnapping of 200 schoolgirls from a remote village in northeastern Nigeria in April 2014, which sparked international outrage. The attacks and kidnappings in May and July also sparked concerns that the Nigerian-based insurgents were further expanding their operations into Cameroon as the government became increasingly involved in regional efforts to contain them.
While Saturday’s brief statement pertaining to the release of the hostages did not provide any details about the conditions of their release, sources have disclosed that Cameroonian authorities paid at least US $400,000 in ransom in order to secure the release of Francoise Agnes Moukouri, the wife of the Vice Prime Minister. The deal to release them was apparently reached on Thursday, three days prior to their release. According to the source, who was part of the negotiation that led to the release of the hostages, the terms of the settlement included the payment of an undisclosed sum of money from the Chinese government for the release of the ten construction workers.
On previous occasions, Cameroonian officials have indicated that the government does not pay ransoms in kidnapping cases.