A French family of seven abducted by Islamic extremists while holidaying in Cameroon have been freed after two months in captivity, officials said Friday.
The hostages — a father, mother, four children aged 5 to 12, and an uncle — were all in good health, the French presidency said, adding that Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was on his way to the central African state to greet the family.
The Cameroonian president said in a statement read on national radio that the hostages — who were seized by six gunmen on February 19 and taken to neighbouring Nigeria — had been “handed over last night to Cameroonian authorities”.
He did not say how they were freed but he thanked the governments of Nigeria and France.
The French foreign minister said they were freed overnight on Thursday to Friday “in an area between Nigeria and Cameroon”.
“I spoke to the family on the phone. They are extremely happy and in good shape,” Fabius told AFP.
The family were seen arriving Friday at the French embassy in Yaounde, the Cameroonian capital.
French President Francois Hollande insisted after their release that France had not paid any ransom.
They had been held by Islamist sect Boko Haram — which is blamed for killing thousands of people in an insurgency in northern Nigeria since 2009.
Their abduction came just as France was deploying thousands of troops to fight Islamic extremists in Mali, another former French colony in the region.
Eight other French citizens are being held hostage in the Sahel region south of the Sahara, according to Hollande.
A video surfaced last month in which the father of the abducted family, Tanguy Moulin-Fournier, seemingly asked President Biya to free detained members of the Al-Qaeda-linked Boko Haram group.
The family, who were based in Cameroon, were visiting the Waza National Park when they were kidnapped.
They were identified as Tanguy Moulin-Fournier, who worked for the French gas group GDF Suez in Yaounde, his wife Albane, and their four sons, Eloi, Andeol, Mael and Clarence.
Tanguy’s brother Cyril Moulin-Fournier was on vacation and with them at the time. The three adults are all around 40 years old.
The family, with the exception of the uncle, moved to Yaounde in 2011 when the father began a job there overseeing the construction of a liquid natural gas plant. The uncle lives in Barcelona, Spain.
Boko Haram has in the past called for the creation of an Islamic state in Nigeria, where corruption is deeply rooted and most of the population lives on less than $2 per day despite its vast oil reserves.
The Boko Haram insurgency is estimated to have left more than 3,000 people dead since 2009, including many killings in operations by the security services.
The group is believed to be made up of many different factions. Analysts say some members are likely hardcore Islamists who would resist any concession to Nigeria’s secular government.
Other members are thought to be northern youths who have been radicalised out of frustration at massive government corruption.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan recently instructed his security advisors to look at whether an amnesty could help curb the Boko Haram insurgency.