The French Minister of Defence, Jean-Yves Le Drian has said that the Government of France would not negotiate with the Boko Haram terrorist group for the release of the French family of seven being held hostage.
The three adults and four children were kidnapped in the far north of Cameroun, near the Nigerian border in Borno State last week. In a video posted online on Monday, the terrorists threatened to kill them unless authorities in Nigeria and Cameroun released their members held there.
“We do not negotiate on that kind of basis, with this kind of group,” Le Drian was quoted telling RTL radio. “We will use all other means possible to ensure that these and other French hostages are freed.”
The radio announcement was in response to the militants’ threats a day after the video was purportedly released.
He deplored the fact that children were involved, adding that France would not be involved in the bidding game as that would be terrorism.
The video, posted on Youtube and mentioned on a jihadist website, shows one of two French men reading a statement, with a woman in between them. Four children sat on the ground between them, flanked by two masked militants wearing camouflage uniforms and holding rifles.
A masked militant in front said in the video that Boko Haram kidnapped the French hostages from outside a national park in Cameroun’s Far North Region on the 19th of February. A black banner in the background bore the images of the Quran flanked by two Kalashnikov rifles, a symbol that has been used previously by Boko Haram.
The masked man said the kidnappings came due to the French military intervention in northern Mali, where its troops have teamed up with Malian soldiers to fight Islamic extremists who took over the North in the months following a coup last year. The man also threatened the Nigerian and Camerounian governments, calling on them to release their imprisoned members.
“Let the French President know that he has declared war against Islam and we are fighting him everywhere. Let him know that we are spread everywhere to save our brothers,” the man said in Arabic.
He threatened that if the group’s demands were not met, the French hostages would be killed.
“Meet all the demands we have mentioned, and if you leave out one of them, we will kill these hostages,” the masked man reportedly said.
The authenticity of the video could not be verified as at Monday, but it shares similarities with some Boko Haram propagandas video released in the past.
The only difference comes from the fact that while in past videos, the Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau speaks in both Arabic and Hausa, the speaker in this video speaks entirely in Arabic. Boko Haram has not published a video showing hostages before. The video also appears to have been filmed outside, as prayer mats hung in the background swaying in the breeze.
The French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius also denounced the video on Monday, saying, “All of the state services are mobilized to free our countrymen.
“For all of us, these images are terribly shocking. They demonstrate cruelty without limits,” Fabius said in a statement.
The kidnapping has raised fears of Westerners being targeted by Islamist militant group in Africa in the wake of the French military intervention against other Islamist rebels in Mali.
The father of the hostage family works for the French company, GDF Suez and is based in Yaounde, th capital in Southern Cameroun.
GDF Suez, which is developing a natural gas liquefaction project in Cameroun, said it was working closely with the French Foreign Ministry.