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French Priest Kidnapped in Cameroon

FILE - This undated photo provided by the St Jean Baptiste Parish in Sceaux, north of Paris, shows French kidnapped priest Georges Vandenbeusch.
The foreign ministry of France says a French priest has been kidnapped in northern Cameroon, near the border with Nigeria.

The ministry said Georges Vandenbeusch was abducted late Wednesday near the town of Koza, about 30 kilometers from the border.

The deputy prefect of Cameroon's far northwestern Mayo-Tsanaga district, Ouhe Kolande, confirmed the kidnapping to VOA.

He said it appears to have been two men who came and attacked the priest. A nun saw it and alerted the neighbors. Kolande said when the neighbors came out, the attackers forced the priest onto a motorcycle and fled. "We suspect they were Boko Haram members because they have been in the area for a while," he added.

Colonel Tatang Francis, a commander for Cameroon's army in the far north, told VOA that a manhunt is on but the attackers appear to have gone back over the border into Nigeria.

He said the motivation for the kidnapping remains unclear.

"They came mainly for money," Francis said. "When they could not find the money, that's when I heard they decided to take the reverend."

France says it is working with authorities in Cameroon to find the kidnappers and have the priest released.

French foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal told VOA's French to Africa Service that French citizens had been discouraged from traveling to the area where Vandenbeusch was kidnapped. Nadal said French officials told him to leave the area but he decided to stay because "he wanted to be close to the local population for his mission."

Asked if the kidnappers had crossed into Nigeria, Nadal said he did not want to comment for security reasons.

A French family of seven was kidnapped in northern Cameroon earlier this year and released unharmed. Boko Haram claimed responsibility for that kidnapping.