Foreign Minister of France, Jean-Yves le Drian, Tuesday dismissed the demand by the Boko Haram sect that unless arrested Islamic militias were released, it would kill the kidnapped French tourists who were captured at a park in northern Cameroun last week. Drian told French radio his government would not negotiate for the release of the French tourists. His remarks came after a shocking video surfaced Monday on YouTube, showing masked gunmen in camouflage standing over their captives: four boys, their parents and the boys' uncle.
And barely 48 hours after a faction of Boko Haram warned against continued violence in the country, there was yet another bloody attack yesterday with the killing of ten persons in Borno and Yobe States.
The stakes are high for France: the lives of four French children, their parents, a relative and nine other French hostages being held by Al Qaeda-linked militants in Nigeria and Mali.
"We do not negotiate on that kind of basis, with these kind of groups. We will use all possible means to ensure these and other hostages are freed," Le Drian said in a radio interview, adding: "We do not play this bidding game, because that's terrorism."
The mother of the children, Albane Moulin-Fournier, looking drawn and haggard, wore an Islamic headcover. Her four sons, Eloi, Andeol, Mael and Clarence, sat cross-legged behind one of the three gunmen shown in the three-minute video. Behind them was a crudely painted black flag with two AK-47s and the Koran.
The boy's father, Tanguy Moulin-Fournier, works in Cameroon for a French gas company. The family was on vacation and had visited a nature reserve in northwest Cameroun with Moulin-Fournier's brother, Cyril Moulin-Fournier, when they were taken hostage last Tuesday.
The gunmen threatened to kill the family if the group's demands were not met.
He also ruled out any swift withdrawal from Mali, where French forces are fighting intense battles to dislodge militias from the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains.
Although Le Drian stood firm against the kidnappers' demands, the French Government is in a delicate position, given the group's threat to kill the children. Execution of French hostages could turn public opinion against the intervention in Mali, which has already cost $133 million.
France intervened at Mali's request last month after Al Qaeda-linked militia, which last year seized control of more than half of the country, swooped south to take several towns in central Mali.
The kidnappers mentioned French military intervention in Mali as one motive for the kidnappings. One of the adult male hostages read a statement saying the gunmen were from Boko Haram, a militia in northern Nigeria. He said they wanted the release of male and female members of the militia in Cameroun and Nigeria.
The Nigerian gunmen seized the hostages last week, and took them on motorcycles into northern Nigeria without detection, officials said.
In a bid to help contain the militia in northern Mali, and elsewhere in the region, President Barack Obama last week announced that he was deploying 100 United States troops to Niger Republic to establish a drone base. Niger borders Mali, Algeria, Libya, Chad, Nigeria, Benin and Burkino Faso.
And the blood-letting continued in Yobe State when six local vigilante personnel were killed in Nangere on Monday, by men suspected to be members of the sect.
Another security source in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, revealed that in a confrontation with the Joint Task Force (JTF) in Borno State, Operation Restore Order, four persons, a leader of the sect from Kano and three of his subjects were shot dead in Maiduguri.
Confirming the killing of the six vigilantes in Yobe, the spokesman of the JTF in the state, Lieutenant Eli Lazarus, told journalists that a gang of gunmen attacked the vigilante group during the briefing before setting out for the task of the day.
Similarly, the spokesman of the JTF in Borno State, Lt Col Sagir Musa, confirmed that a very senior leader of Boko Haram was killed alongside three other members of the sect, while trying to plot a major attack in Maiduguri.
He noted that the incident took place at Kasuwan Kaji area in Maiduguri metropolis between 2.05 p.m. and 5.50 p.m.
"The operation was intended to arrest a top Boko Haram commander and his group believed to have come into Maiduguri from Kano to cause havoc," he said.
According to him, "It is confirmed that he and his group are responsible for the recent series of Improvised explosive Device (IED) /weapons attacks on JTF patrols vehicles and locations.
"The commander and his three lieutenants lost their lives during an exchange of fire. Three other terrorists were arrested and are in JTF custody undergoing interrogation. No casualty recorded on the side of JTF troops and no civilian was wounded."
He also revealed that the following items were recovered at the raided location; 3 AK 47 Rifles, two Dane Guns, three magazines, 36 rounds of 7.62mm Special ammunition, two Bows and 18 Arrows and assorted IED materials.