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2 Priests and Nun Taken as Hostages in Cameroon Kidnapping: Officials

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YAOUNDE, Cameroon — Two Italian priests and a Canadian nun were kidnapped in northern Cameroon overnight, a bishop and a government source said on Saturday, months after a French priest was seized nearby.

It was not immediately clear who took them, though Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram is known to operate in the area.

“Doors were broken towards midnight by unknown people and the religious were taken away. We do not know where they are. The act is not yet claimed but we imagine who is behind this kidnapping,” said Bishop Phillippe Stevens, from the parish of Maroua, where the kidnapping took place.

He named the priests as Giampaolo Marta and Gianantonio Allegri, both missionaries sent out by the diocese of Vicenza in northeast Italy, and the nun as Gilberte Bissiere.

Image: AP
Vicenza Bishop Beniamino Pizziol, second from right, poses with priests Gianantonio Alllegri, left, and Giampaolo Marta, right, during a visit in Jericho, Cameroon, in January. Officials say Allegri and Marta, working as missionaries in northern Cameroon, have been abducted.

Pope Francis was aware of the kidnappings and praying for those taken, the Vatican press office said.

A government source in northern Cameroon said armed forces were attempting to free the hostages, without going into further details.

The priests had been working on improving water supplies and fighting the spread of HIV Aids, as well as their religious duties, the diocesan website described.

The Italian Foreign Ministry said it was working with the Italian embassy in Yaounde to resolve the situation.

Boko Haram has killed thousands of people in its fight to carve out an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, which borders the north of Cameroon.

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