2 Italian Priests, Canadian Nun Are Freed by Boko Haram In Cameroon

The two priests who had been kidnapped, Gianantonio Allegri, left, and Giampaolo Marta, right, in January near Maroua. Diocesi Vicenza
The two priests who had been kidnapped, Gianantonio Allegri, left, and Giampaolo Marta, right, in January near Maroua.
Diocesi Vicenza

Two Italian priests and a Canadian nun, kidnapped nearly two months ago near Cameroon’s border with Nigeria in a region rife with Boko Haram militants, have been freed, Cameroon’s communications minister said on Sunday.

The minister would not discuss the terms under which the three were released. But past kidnappings of Europeans by Boko Haram in northern Cameroon have involved the release of prisoners in return, along with payments of cash. The three were flown to Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé.

The two priests — Giampaolo Marta and Gianantonio Allegri — and the nun — Gilberte Bussière — were abducted early on April 5 from their mission in northern Cameroon. That area is used as a rear base by Boko Haram, which is waging a bloody terrorist campaign against villagers across the border in northern Nigeria.

The area is lightly policed, and the militants have carried out four kidnappings of foreigners there in the past 18 months, with the latest being the seizing of 10 Chinese road workers from their camp two weeks ago. The Nigerians have accused Cameroonian officials of not taking the Boko Haram threat seriously enough, and in the past week the Cameroon government has confirmed that it has sent an undisclosed number of troops to the area.

The priests freed had worked in the region for many years. Cameroonian officials met them at the regional capital, Maroua, early Sunday and flew them to Yaoundé, the communications minister, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, said.

“They have been freed,” he said. “Very early this morning.”

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SOURCE: The New York Times
Adam Nossiter

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