French hostages held by Nigerian sect in new video
A video surfaced Monday showing a man who appeared to be a French hostage held by Islamic extremists with six other family members kidnapped on Feb. 19 in northern Cameroon.
The video's audio airs a man's voice that identifies himself as Tanguy Moulin-Fournier. He says that his family is being held by the Islamic radical sect known as Boko Haram which wants all its members freed, especially women and children held in Nigerian and Cameroonian custody.
Boko Haram has been waging a campaign of bombings and shootings across Nigeria's north. They are held responsible for more than 790 deaths last year alone, and dozens more since the beginning of this year. On Monday bombings in two northern cities killed at least 17 people.
Moulin-Fournier said his family is not doing well in captivity.
"We lose force (strength) every day and start to be sick; we will not stay very long like this," Moulin-Fournier says in the recording.
The family has been held hostage for 25 days, he says in a shaky voice, giving the only date indication on the recording. The family comprising of Tanguy, his brother, his wife and their four children was kidnapped outside a national park in Cameroon's Far North region.
The video was not immediately available, but a media source who viewed it says it shows the Moulin-Fournier family, including the four children. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.
"They will not be able to get the seven hostages unless they free our members," one of the family's captors says in the recording, speaking in the Hausa language of Nigeria's north.
This is the second video showing the Moulin-Fournier family since another video was posted on YouTube three weeks ago.
"The living conditions are very hard," Moulin-Fournier said, "hot (the heat), water, food, sleep, life in the desert, et cetera -conditions even more difficult for the white men that we are who are not used to the African hot and for the kids."
The video comes days after French foreign minister Laurent Fabius visited Nigeria and Cameroon as part of a campaign to get the hostages freed. He said that, in addition to the family of seven, extremists also hold an eighth French national who had been working on a renewable energy project in northern Nigeria. It is not clear which extremist group currently holds the French engineer kidnapped on Dec. 19.
Fabius said he had been working with Nigerian and Cameroonian authorities using an approach that he described as "determined and discrete."
The hostage situation is exacerbated by the recent killings of other foreign captives held by a splinter group of Boko Haram.
European diplomats said those seven foreign workers who had been kidnapped from a construction site in northern Nigeria on Feb. 16 had been killed by their captors after a video showing some of the corpses was made public. The killings stoked fears about the extremists' readiness to execute their hostages.
However Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan told journalists Monday that all seven hostages from the construction project may not be dead. Those seven hostages include two Lebanese nationals, one citizen each from the United Kingdom, Greece and Italy, and two people now believed to be Syrian. Lebanese President Michel Sleiman, who visited President Jonathan in Abuja Monday, said that he still had hopes that some of the hostages would be freed.
Jonathan said that he told Sleiman that if all seven had been killed, Nigeria will make every effort to retrieve their bodies.
But even as Jonathan spoke, Monday, Nigeria was hit by more extremist violence.
Two secondary schools were attacked in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, leaving a teacher dead and three girl students injured, military spokesman Sagir Musa said. He blamed the Boko Haram sect and said local security forces had killed three of its members in a counterattack.
Hours later, at least 16 people were killed in explosions at a bus station in the northern city of Kano, according to medical officials. No group claimed responsibility for the blast, but suspicion fell once again on Boko Haram.
"The federal government will not be stampeded, for any reason whatsoever, into abandoning its unrelenting war against terrorists in the country," said Nigerian presidential spokesman Reuben Abati in reaction to the Kano blast Monday.
Associated Press reporters Yinka Ibukun in Lagos, Salisu Rabiu in Kano and Bashir Adigun in Abuja contributed to this report.