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RFI exclusive: Nigerian Foreign Minister confirms no ransom to kidnappers of French hostages

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Nigeria ruled out a ransom payment yesterday to kidnappers holding seven members of a French family, as France’s foreign minister Laurent Fabius held talks with President Jonathan Goodluck on the abductions.

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Last month in Cameroon near the north-eastern border with Nigeria, seven French nationals, including four children under the age of 12, were kidnapped by the Nigerian radical Islamist group Boko Haram. A video posted online showed the hostages with the kidnappers saying they were members of the Islamist group.

The group has accused the West of waging war on Islam, and Nigeria of imprisoning its members.

In an exclusive interview with RFI’s Julie Vandal, the Nigerian Foreign Minister Olugbenga Ashiru spoke for the first time publicly about the abduction. He said Nigeria will do everything possible to ensure their safety, but that this does not necessarily include negotiations.

“As part of our own policy, we don’t pay ransom to terrorists” Ashiru said. Echoing the same sentiment as his Nigerian counterpart, Fabius added “We cannot divulge information or detail. We need to be both determined and discreet”.

Dossier: Sharia wars - Boko Haram v the military in northern Nigeria

In addition to the family, an eighth French engineer is still being held by Ansaru, a group considered an offshoot of Boko Haram. He was kidnapped back in December in Nigeria’s northern Katsina state.

Despite the video claim allegedly by Boko Haram, analysts say there is still uncertainty as to who is holding the French family. Some experts have suggested that the motive behind this kidnapping is more financial rather than political.

France is warning those who travel to the region of increased risk following the French-led campaign against Islamist rebels in Mali.

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