Two Italian priests and a Canadian nun kidnapped from the parish of Maroua in northern Cameroon.

YAOUNDE — Unidentified gunmen reportedly entered the building where they were staying at around 2:00 pm (1:00 GMT) and ransacked the place before capturing the priests and nun.

The nun has been named as 75-year-old Gilberte Bussières who worked in Africa since 1979 and was originally from Asbestos, Quebec in Canada. The two priests were Giampaolo Marta and Gianantonio Allegri from Vicenza, Italy, sent to Africa as missionaries. The priests were working to improve water supplies and fight the spread of HIV beside their religious duties.

A crisis centre and armed forces are reportedly attempting to free the hostages. The Italian Foreign Ministry said it was working alongside the Italian embassy in Yaounde to resolve the situation and Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs is aware of the kidnapping; releasing a statement saying they are in “close contact with Cameroonian authorities”.

Bishop Phillippe Stevens, from the parish where the kidnapping took place, commented: “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.”

Although the perpetrators of the attack have not been identified, months previous to this was the kidnapping and release of a French priest who was abducted from the same area and locals blame the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram, who are known to operate in the area, for this recent abduction.

The Boko Haram is a militant terrorist organisation known for their increasingly violent insurgency in the north of Nigeria, responsible for an estimated 1,500 deaths each year and several other kidnappings.

Pope Francis, who is aware of the situation, sent his prayers to the three people kidnapped and “expressed hope for a solution”.

Olivia Thomas, Correspondent (Africa) 

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