The Nigerian security forces were in a “massive manhunt” Friday for seven members of a kidnapped French family after Paris said the abductors had likely separated the victims into two groups.
“As long as there are rumours of their cross-border movements, then security agencies must be intensely searching for them,” police spokesman Frank Mba told AFP, adding that there was a “massive manhunt.”
He however could provide few other details on the operation to free the family, which includes two parents, four children aged 5 to 12 and an uncle, including who may be the suspects behind the abductions on Tuesday.
The family was abducted while visiting a national park in the West African nation of Cameroon by six armed suspected Islamists on three motorbikes.
On Thursday, French President Francois Hollande said that the family were probably being held in two groups.
Cameroon authorities said the victims were then taken over the border into Nigeria’s northeast, a restive region where insurgents from Islamist extremist group Boko Haram and criminal gangs have long operated.
While French officials have named Boko Haram as the likely culprits, a splinter faction of the group known as Ansaru, which has risen in prominence in recent weeks, appears to have focused on targeting foreign hostages.
Ansaru claimed the December kidnapping of a French national in northern Nigeria and the abduction of seven foreigners from a construction site in Bauchi state at the weekend.
In statements, Ansaru has protested against France’s efforts against Islamist rebels in Mali.