SEVEN French citizens, including four children, were kidnapped in Cameroon yesterday amid a surge of attacks across west Africa since Paris ordered its country's troops into Mali.
Last night, Francois Hollande, the French president, blamed the kidnapping on Boko Haram, the al-Qa'ida-allied fundamentalist group, based in neighbouring Nigeria.
The seven hostages were taken from Cameroon's far north close to the Waza National Park and Lake Chad, both attractions for tourists on adventure holidays.
The semi-arid area lies alongside the border with Nigeria, and Islamist strongholds in towns including Maiduguri are less than 100 miles to the west.
It is believed to be the first time that Nigeria's growing problem with Islamic fundamentalism, and kidnapping, has been exported into its generally stable neighbour.
"They have been taken by a terrorist group that we know and that is in Nigeria," Mr Hollande said. "I see the hand of Boko Haram in that part of Cameroon."
Issa Tchiroma Bakary, Cameroon's information minister, said his government and security services were investigating the reports but would not immediately confirm details.
It was not clear if the seven French citizens were from one family, or if they were tourists or members of expatriate families working in Cameroon. Three were adults and four were children, according to reports.
Mr Hollande said that his intelligence services suspected the group was being taken towards northern Nigeria.
A French engineer was kidnapped close to Katsina, a Nigerian town, in December. Seven other Westerners were kidnapped on Sunday from another Nigerian town.
Mr Hollande is facing increasing domestic pressure to justify ordering the operation in Mali, where 4,000 French troops helped stall an Islamist surge. (© Daily Telegraph, London)