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Updated: Sat, 05 Apr 2014 09:29:07 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Cameroon abduction involves capture of 2 Italian priests, Canadian nun



This photo released by Vicenza Diocese, Saturday April 5, 2014 shows Vicenza Bishop Beniamino Pizziol, center, flanked by father Gianantonio Alllegri, right, and Giampaolo Marta, left, during a mass in Tchakidjebe church, near Maroua, Cameroon, during a visit on Jan. 2014. Officials say two Italian priests and a Canadian nun working as missionaries in northern Cameroon have been abducted. Italy's foreign ministry said the abduction occurred during the night between Friday and Saturday about 30 kilometers (© 20 miles)

This photo released by Vicenza Diocese, Saturday April 5, 2014 shows Vicenza Bishop Beniamino Pizziol, center, flanked by father Gianantonio Alllegri, right, and Giampaolo Marta, left, during a mass in Tchakidjebe church, near Maroua, Cameroon, during a visit on Jan. 2014. Officials say two Italian priests and a Canadian nun working as missionaries in northern Cameroon have been abducted. Italy's foreign ministry said the abduction occurred during the night between Friday and Saturday about 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the border with Nigeria. It identified the priests as Giampaolo Marta and Gianantonio Allegri, but declined to give other details, including the Canadian's identity, to avoid compromising efforts for the missionaries' release.( AP Photo/Vicenza Diocese) Vicenza Diocese / AP

Officials say two Italian priests and a Canadian nun working as missionaries in northern Cameroon have been abducted.

Italy's foreign ministry said the abduction occurred during the night between Friday and Saturday about 30 kilometres from the border with Nigeria.

The ministry identified the priests as Giampaolo Marta and Gianantonio Allegri, but declined to give other details, including the Canadian's identity, to avoid compromising efforts for the missionaries' release.

A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, said Pope Francis was told early Saturday about the abduction, was praying for the three and "expressed hope for a solution." Benedettini said the priests were assigned from the Vicenza diocese in northeast Italy.

The Italian news agency ANSA quoted diocesan officials as saying the nun is 80.

Armed gunmen are reported to have pulled up to the building where the nun and priests were staying at around 2 a.m. local time. The place was then ransacked before the three were taken hostage.

Locally police have blamed the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram. Its violent attacks are blamed for more than 1,500 deaths this year.

They have been waging an increasingly violent insurgency in the north of Nigeria since 2009 and are said to have been responsible for a number of similar kidnappings in the border region of northern Cameroon.

Three months ago, a French priest was released after being kidnapped in the same area in November. A French family was also held hostage in the region earlier last year.

The United States last year put Boko Haram on its list of international terror groups.

Boko Haram is suspected of using northern Cameroon as a safe haven to launch attacks in northeast Nigeria.

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