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Two Italian Priests, Canadian Nun Released by Boko Haram to Cameroonian Security Forces

06/02/2014 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Boko Haram released two Italian priests and a Canadian nun the group kidnapped following a raid on a small Cameroon Parish on April 4, 2014.

Fathers Giampaolo Marta, 47, Gianantonio Allegri, 57, and Sister Gilberte Bussier, 75, were released Sunday, June 1, near Cameroon’s border with Nigeria. Kidnapped by members of Boko Haram from their small Parish in Tcheré, Cameroon, the clergy endured 57 days of captivity.

After raiding the Tcheré Parish and abducting the three clergy members, Boko Haram ransacked several church buildings in making its way toward the Nigerian border. Cameroon initially dispatched helicopters to conduct a search and rescue mission the weekend of April 5, before deploying 700 troops to the nation’s destabilized north in a broader effort to increase regional security.

The New York Times noted the Cameroonian Minister of Communications declined to disclose the terms of the release, refusing to acknowledge whether Cameroon had paid out a ransom to Boko Haram or conducted a prisoner exchange. The Vatican likewise has not disclosed whether it played a role in negotiating the terms of the three clergy members’ release. The three clergy members were, however, handed over to Cameroonian security forces, transported to a military base in Maroua before being flown to Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé.

The three clergy members were received by the Italian and Canadian Ambassadors to Cameroon in Yaoundé, as well as a small envoy sent by Pope Francis and local church authorities, according to state television. Officials said the three clergy members were taken to their respective embassies before meeting Cameroonian President Paul Biya late Sunday.

Boko Haram, or “Western education is forbidden,” is an Islamic insurgency designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the United States and a known al-Qaeda affiliate by a United Nations Security Council Committee. Boko Haram is responsible for an estimated 12,000 deaths, including 1,500 deaths and the mass-kidnapping of more than 240 schoolgirls in 2014 alone.

ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, Cameron Thomas, said, “We are incredibly relieved to hear of the release of our brothers and sister in Christ. Boko Haram’s systematic kidnapping of civilians, including clergy men and women, for the sake of negotiating prisoner exchanges or raising funds though ransom demands to finance their ongoing campaign of terror against Christians, civilians, moderate Muslims, and educators throughout northern Nigeria must be addressed and stopped. Christians throughout the region, having been denied security for worship services, remain particularly vulnerable to Boko Haram attacks. The internal community cannot allow Boko Haram to continue to operate between West African nations with little resistance and almost complete impunity. Boko Haram and its leadership must be held accountable for the atrocities it has and continues to commit.”

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