Two Italian priests and an 80-year-old Canadian sister were kidnapped during the night of April 4-5 by armed men in northern Cameroon. The gunmen reportedly ransacked the building where the three were staying before forcibly taking the hostages.
The three kidnapping victims were working as missionaries in Cameroon’s Diocese of Maroua, near the border of Nigeria. Italy’s foreign ministry identified the priests, assigned from the Vicenza diocese in northeast Italy. as Father Giampaolo Marta and Father Gianantonio Allegri. The name of the kidnapped nun has not been released, and officials have been reluctant to give other details which could jeopardize their investigation.
A French priest was kidnapped in the same region and held for more than a month last fall. A French family kidnapped in early 2013 was detained for three months.
Cameroon police have blamed the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram. The United States government last year added Boko Haram to its list of international terror groups. The group has been blamed for more than 1,500 deaths this year.
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UPDATE: Great news! The BBC reports today that the three kidnapping victims–Italians Father Gianantonio Allegri and Father Giampolo Marta, and Canadian Sister Gilberte Bussier–have been released.
The Italian Foreign Ministry has confirmed the release, and the three ex-hostages are reportedly being flown to Yaounde, the nation’s capitol.
Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican Press Office, said that the news “fills us with joy.”
Gianantonio Allegri, Giampaolo Marta and Gilberte Bussier