Saturday, April 5, 2014

Cameroon: Two Italian Priests, Canadian Nun Kidnapped, Boko Haram Suspected

According to The Associated Press, two Italian priests and a Canadian nun working as missionaries in northern Cameroon were kidnapped at gunpoint before dawn on Saturday (April 5) in their residences by two armed groups.

Italy's Foreign Ministry identified the priests as Giampaolo Marta and Gianantonio Allegri, but declined to give other details, including the Canadian's identity, to avoid compromising efforts for the missionaries' release. 

The Ministry noted that its website cautions against travel in the area, 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the border with Nigeria "in consideration of the risk of kidnappings due to presence of jihadist elements coming from Nigeria."

COMMENT: It is presumed that the foreigners were kidnapped and the Cameroon clergy left behind for ease of travel and abductee control.

The missionaries who were kidnapped "are greatly loved and greatly appreciated," Vicenza diocese spokesman the Rev. Alessio Graziani said. "The people there have great esteem for them."

Pope Francis was told early Saturday about the abduction and is praying for the three and "expressed hope for a solution."

Vatican Radio said the three were seized by the gunmen in the diocese of Maroua.

"It isn't ruled out that those who carried out the abduction belong to the Islamic fundamentalist group Boko Haram," Vatican Radio said. Diocesan officials said no one has claimed responsibility for the abductions.

Vatican Radio broadcast an interview with an unidentified priest from Vicenza who said the kidnappers took the Canadian woman, but left nuns from Cameroon who work with the Italian priest.

The Italian news agency ANSA quoted diocesan officials as saying the nun is 80  years of age. Neither the ministry nor the Vicenza diocese identified her.

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.