MS Risk Blog

Two Priests and Nun Released in Cameroon

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Officials have confirmed the release of two Italian priests and a Canadian nun, seized by gunmen in Cameroon in April.

A security source confirmed Sunday that two Italian priests and a Canadian nun, kidnapped by suspected Boko Haram militants in Cameroon two months ago, have been freed.  The Cameroonian security source indicated that the hostages were “freed overnight, at about 2 in the morning.  Our soldiers picked them up from a village close to Amchide,” which is located in the northern region of the country.  A military source has indicated that the three, who were kidnapped near the border with Nigeria in April, were released as part of a prisoner exchange with a fee being paid, noting, “it was not easy.  The kidnappers changed the rendezvous place repeatedly,” adding that the heavily-armed hostage-takers had sent a “motorbike to find us.”  The hostages were flown out of Maroua airport on board a military aircraft on Sunday morning, headed for the capital city.

Italy’s minister for foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini confirmed their release, stating it was a moment of “great joy.”  He also congratulated the Cameroonian authorities for “a well-run operation.”  The Vatican also responded to the news of the release on Sunday morning, with Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi stating “the Pope, who has followed these dramatic events from the start, was immediately informed….Our thoughts remain with all the other innocent people who are still being held captive, the victims of unacceptable kidnappings in different regions and conflicts.”  The priests, named as Giampaolo Mart and Giantonio Allegri from Italy, and Canadian nun Gilberte Bussier, were kidnapped on April 4 from the small parish of Tchere in the northern district of Maroua, which is located 800 kilometres (500 miles) north of Yaoundé.  While there was no initial claim of responsibility, Cameroonian security forces blamed Nigeria’s Boko Haram for the kidnapping.  The three are believed to have been taken over the border shortly after being kidnapped, with a military source indicating that Cameroonian negotiators had spent a week in Nigeria discussing their release.

According to sources, the two priests had been working on improving water supplies and fighting the spread of HIV Aids, a well as their religious duties.  One of the priests had been in Cameroon for more than six years while the other had arrived about a year before the abduction.

Militants in the region have in the past kidnapped a number of Westerners in a bid to fund their uprising.  In two separate incidents last year, Boko Haram militants kidnapped a priest as well as seven members of a French family in northern Cameroon.