Cameroun soldiers kill 40 Boko Haram militants
•Abducted Italian priests, Nun freed
Cameroun security forces at the weekend killed no fewer than 40 Boko Haram militants in clashes in the country’s far north, state radio said yesterday shortly after the release of two Italian priests and a Canadian nun suspected to have been held by the Islamist group.
A Cameroun Presidency source confirmed the clashes, which took place west of the town of Kousseri, in the region bordering Nigeria and Chad. Cameroun, which has been criticised by Nigeria for not doing enough to fight Boko Haram, deployed some 1,000 troops in the far north last week as it steps up the fight against the Islamist militants
The two Italian priests and the Canadian nun were seized by gunmen in Cameroun in April, according to officials.
The ex-hostages boarded a plane to the capital, Yaounde, yesterday.
The three were kidnapped by gunmen from the building where they were staying in the northern district of Maroua in the early hours of April 5.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack but suspicion has fallen on Boko Haram.
Boko Haram Islamists kidnapped another priest as well as seven members of a French family in northern Cameroun last year.
Italy’s foreign ministry confirmed the release of Italian priests Gianantonio Allegri and Giampaolo Marta and Canadian nun Gilberte Bussier in a statement yesterday.
It thanked the Canadian and Cameroun 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”.
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 Cameroun for more than six years, while the other had arrived about a year before the abduction, Italian media reported at the time.
Cameroun announced it deployed about 1,000 troops to its border with Nigeria last 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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