Nigerian Military On "Massive Manhunt" For French Hostages

Security forces are searching for a family of seven French tourists kidnapped by suspected Islamist militants in Cameroon four days ago and taken into Nigeria, police said on Friday.
There has been a surge in clashes in recent days between suspected members of Islamist sect Boko Haram and the military in Nigeria's northeastern town of Maiduguri, near the border with Cameroon.

Security forces and Western diplomats believe it could be an attempt by Boko Haram to draw Nigerian troops into conflict within the city and limit their search and rescue capability.

"There is a massive manhunt ongoing," National Police Spokesman Frank Mba told Reuters.

"Security operatives are working around the clock with search and surveillance to solve this."

The French hostages and kidnappers were near a small town called Dikwa at one point on Thursday, a Nigerian military source in Maiduguri said, asking not to be identified.

Dikwa is around 80 km (50 miles) from Maiduguri and about the same distance to the border with Cameroon, where the three adults and four children were taken hostage on Tuesday.

French President Francois Hollande said on Thursday the hostages had probably been separated.

French gendarmes backed by special forces arrived in northern Cameroon on Wednesday to help locate the family, a local governor and French defence ministry official said.

The abduction was the first case of foreigners being seized in the mostly Muslim north of Cameroon, a former French colony, and highlighted the threat to French interests in West Africa since Paris deployed thousands of troops to Mali to oust al Qaeda-linked Islamists who controlled the country's north.
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