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French Nationals, Including Children, Taken Hostage in Cameroon

Feb. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Seven French citizens, including four children, have been taken hostage in Cameroon, President Francois Hollande told journalists in Athens.

French authorities are familiar with the terrorist group, which is based in Nigeria, he added.

The kidnappings come a day after an Islamist group in neighboring Nigeria claimed responsibility for taking seven foreigners hostage at a construction site in the northern state of Bauchi. The hostages, including four Lebanese, a U.K. national, a Greek and an Italian, work for Setraco Nigeria Ltd., Hassan Mohammed, a police spokesman, said on Feb 17 by phone from Bauchi, the state capital.

Jamaatu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladissudan, or “Vanguards for the Protection of Muslims in the Land of the Blacks,” the group that took the construction workers hostage, said in an e-mailed statement yesterday that its action was in response to “the transgressions and atrocities done to the religion of Allah” by European nations in countries such as Mali and Afghanistan.

France, which intervened in Mali to help it restore state control over a nation that vies with Tanzania as Africa’s third-biggest gold producer, has about 4,000 troops in that country.

The government of Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer, has been battling Boko Haram, another militant Islamist group, which has carried out gun and bomb attacks in the north and killed hundreds of people since 2009. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with more than 160 million people, is roughly split between the largely Muslim north and the predominantly Christian south.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mark Deen in Paris at mdeen@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Vidya Root at vroot@bloomberg.net

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