French Foreign Minister meets Cameroon's Biya By YUH TIMCHIA in Yaoundé | Friday, March 15   2013 at  11:12

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. PHOTO | AFP 

Cameroon president Paul Biya was to meet Friday with French Foreign Affairs minister Laurent Fabius, a meeting France says is aimed at bolstering an ongoing campaign to secure the release of a French family of seven abducted by Nigeria's Islamist Boko Haram in Northern Cameroon.

“This visit falls within the framework of the French authorities’ wholehearted commitment to securing the release of our compatriots being held hostage in Nigeria by terrorist groups,” a release from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Mr Fabius’ visit which runs through Saturday will also take him to Nigeria where he will meet with President Goodluck Jonathan.

The ministry’s statement said the trip also aims at reinforcing cooperation with Cameroon and Nigeria which are already fully committed to combating terrorism.

But some reports say the kernel of the visit is to admonish Cameroon for its unsatisfactory handling of the issue by not cooperating fully with its eastern neighbour Nigeria.

Six gunmen on three motorbikes on February 19 seized a French family — a couple, their children aged 5, 8, 10 and 12, and an uncle — which was vacationing in northern Cameroon and took them across the border into Nigeria.

A day later, news broke that they had been freed but it was a false alert.

A group claiming to be the Islamist sect Boko Haram in northern Nigeria later released a video with the hostages and said they will be killed if France, Cameroon and Nigeria didn’t give in to their demands.

They wanted their members held in Cameroon and Nigeria jails freed. Cameroon authorities have denied they are holding any Boko Haram members.

France which has deployed its security operatives in northern Cameroon and Nigeria insists it will not negotiate with the hostage takers, but says it is actively seeking the abductees' release.

Mr Fabius will also meet with Mr Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo, Cameroon’s Minister of External Relations.

About 6,200 French citizens are registered as living in Cameroon and the community in both Cameroon and Nigeria is wary following the recent developments.

The visit will serve to reassure them of their home country’s solidarity and the emphasis it says it places on their security.