And again the details remain sparse and at times conflicting. Francis Collomp, an engineer with the French company Vergnet, was abducted on December 19th, 2012, from a compound in the Nigerian town of Rimi, near the border with Niger. Ansaru, said to be a splinter faction of Nigeria’s larger militant group Boko Haram, subsequently said it had taken Collomp hostage over France’s intervention in Mali and its domestic policies regarding the practice of hijab, the veiling of women.
The Reuters report said that a source had informed them that Collomp had escaped his captors, but that this had been denied by the French Foreign Ministry. On October 29th, four French hostages that had been taken by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) were released amid reports that a ransom had been paid. Collomp’s freedom also comes within days of the US decision to designate both Boko Haram and Ansaru as Foreign Terrorist Organizations and France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius saying that there was evidence that Boko Haram and Ansaru had cooperated with AQIM. AQIM has operated in Niger along the border with Nigeria among other places in northwest Africa.
In addition, on Friday, Nigerian forces reportedly launched a raid against Boko Haram in Bita, near the Cameroonian border, which it said was being used as a staging area for militant attacks in the region. On the same day, Nigerian forces were also reportedly engaged in a firefight with Boko Haram south of Maiduguri in the country’s northeast, said to be a stronghold for the ground. A Nigerian military spokesman said that twenty-nine Boko Haram militants were killing in the two operations, but there was no independent confirmation of the events.
UPDATE: Despite the denial from the French Foreign Ministry, VOA has reported that Nigeria’s Kaduna State Police Commissioner Olufemi Adenaike confirmed the report that Collomp had managed to escape his captors.