Cameroon frees 24 hostages after suspected Boko Haram kidnapping

YAOUNDE (REUTERS) - Cameroon's army has freed 24 of some 80 hostages kidnapped during a cross-border attack by suspected Boko Haram Islamist fighters based in neighbouring Nigeria, a defence ministry spokesman said on Monday.

The kidnapping, which occurred in the north of Cameroon on Sunday around the village of Mabass, was one of the largest abductions on Cameroonian soil. Many children were among the hostages. "The Cameroon army was able to free about 24 hostages taken yesterday by Boko Haram in the far north. They were freed as defence forces pursued the attackers who were heading back to Nigeria," said ministry spokesman Colonel Didier Badjeck.

Boko Haram has killed thousands of people and kidnapped hundreds in its bid to carve out an Islamic state in northern Nigeria. In recent months, it has targeted Cameroon and Niger as it seeks to expand its zone of operations.

At the weekend, neighbouring Chad deployed troops to help Cameroon in its efforts to tackle the insurgency in the area.