Italian priests and Canadian nun ‘freed in Cameroon’

(l-r) Gianantonio Alllegri, Giampaolo Marta and Gilberte Bussier

Gianantonio Allegri, Giampaolo Marta and Gilberte Bussier were abducted in the district of Maroua

Two Italian priests and a Canadian nun seized by gunmen in Cameroon in April have been freed, officials say.

The ex-hostages are said to have boarded a plane to the capital, Yaounde, on Sunday.

The three were kidnapped by gunmen from the building where they were staying in the northern district of Maroua in the early hours of 5 April.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack but suspicion has fallen on militant Nigerian group Boko Haram.

Boko Haram Islamists kidnapped another priest as well as seven members of a French family in northern Cameroon last year.

‘Joy’

Italy’s foreign ministry confirmed the release of Italian priests Gianantonio Allegri and Giampaolo Marta and Canadian nun Gilberte Bussier in a statement on Sunday.

It thanked the Canadian and Cameroon authorities but gave no details of how the three were freed.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said news of the release “fills us with joy”.

Map showing Maroua

The priests had been working on improving water supplies and fighting the spread of HIV Aids, as well as their religious duties, according to their diocese in the Vicenza region of Italy.

One of the priests had been in Cameroon for more than six years, while the other had arrived about a year before the abduction, Italian media reported at the time.

Cameroon announced it had deployed about 1,000 troops to its border with Nigeria on Tuesday to fight the growing threat from Boko Haram.

Thousands of people have died since Boko Haram began a violent campaign against the Nigerian government in 2009 and in the subsequent security crackdown.

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