The French government has denied reports that seven members of a family kidnapped in Cameroon by suspected Islamists on Tuesday are "safe and well."
Rumors began early Thursday when a Cameroonian military source apparently told media that the French family, including four children, had been released, but it was later described by a government minister as a "wild rumor."
A French minister who confirmed the rumor was quickly forced to backtrack, stating it "denied the information that the French hostages had been released," BBC News reported.
Hopes for the seven hostages -- a couple, their children aged five, eight, 10 and 12 and an uncle -- were raised when a military source said they were found safe and well, abandoned in a house in Dikwa in northern Nigeria, about 160 miles from the border with Cameroon, AFP reported.
According to a park official, the family live in Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital, and had camped on Monday night in Waza National Park in the far north of Cameroon. The attack happened as they set out early Tuesday for an animal reserve to view elephants.
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The Guardian reported Joseph Dion Ngute, a junior minister at Cameroon's foreign ministry, telling French television the kidnappers put the hostages on motorcycles and stole another car before heading to Nigeria.
French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said evidence suggested the kidnappers were Nigerian Islamists Boko Haram.
"We believe it's the Boko Haram group that carried out the kidnapping, but we don't know for sure. Unfortunately, terror breeds terror," he said.
The kidnappings appeared to be part of the widening fallout from France’s military intervention against Islamist militants in northern Mali, the New York Times reported.