Claim French hostages released 'unfounded'

Last updated 02:00 22/02/2013

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France's foreign ministry has denied that seven French hostages captured in Cameroon have been released, saying media reports earlier were unfounded.

"After checking with our embassies, this information appears to be unfounded. The governments of the countries involved, mainly Nigeria and Cameroon, have also denied it," said Didier Le Bret, spokesman for the ministry's crisis unit.

French television earlier reported that the hostages had been found alive in a house in northern Nigeria and are safe with Nigerian authorities.

The hostages, four children and three adults, were captured by Islamist militants this week while on a tourist excursion to the Waza national park near the Nigerian border with Cameroon.

It was the first case of foreigners being seized in the mainly Muslim north of Cameroon, a former French colony, but the region is considered within the operational sphere of Islamist sect Boko Haram and fellow Nigerian Islamist militants Ansaru.

"The hostages are safe and sound and are in the hands of Nigerian authorities," BFMTV quoted an officer from Cameroon's army as saying.

Earlier, France's minister for veterans' affairs, who told parliament on Thursday that seven hostages abducted from Cameroon had been released, said minutes later there was no official confirmation that they had been freed.

A French diplomatic source said there would be no official confirmation until French authorities had received physical proof the hostages had been freed or they were in French hands. 

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- Reuters

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