Kidnapped French priest freed in Cameroon

Kidnapped French priest freed in Cameroon
A picture shows personal documents and a picture of French priest Georges Vandenbeusch (R) in the house where he lived in Nguetchewe, near Maroua, in the north of Cameroon on November 17, 2013.

PARIS - French President Francois Hollande announced Tuesday the release of a Roman Catholic priest who was abducted by Islamic militants in Cameroon six weeks ago.

Georges Vandenbeusch, 42, was kidnapped in the far north of the central African country on November 13 and reportedly taken by the Islamist extremists to neighbouring Nigeria.

Hollande thanked both the Nigerian and Cameroonian authorities for helping secure the priest's release, and particularly Cameroon's President Paul Biya for his "personal involvement".

The radical Islamist movement Boko Haram, which has killed thousands of people in attacks against Christians and government targets in northern Nigeria, claimed responsibility for holding the French priest soon after he was kidnapped.

A French diplomatic source said Vandenbeusch was freed in the early hours of Tuesday in northern Cameroon and was being flown by the army to be received by the French ambassador.

The Nigerian army announced on Monday that it had begun a major ground and air offensive against Boko Haram close to Bama, which is near the porous border with Cameroon.

In the ongoing assault, troops killed 56 Boko Haram fighters, military spokesman Major-General Chris Olukolade said.

But Olukolade said Tuesday the Nigerian army was not involved in the release of the French priest.

"I have not received any briefings on the incident because the military were not involved," he said.

Hollande said he had asked French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to fly to Cameroon's capital Yaounde "to greet Father Vandenbeusch and bring him home as soon as possible".

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