Nigerian security forces have surrounded the kidnappers of a French family in northeast Borno state and are trying to free the hostages, a military source has said.
Nigeria's military located the hostages and kidnappers on Thursday between Dikwa and Ngala in the far northeast, the military source in Borno told Reuters, asking not to be named.
Dikwa is less than 80km from the border with Cameroon where the three adults and four children were taken
hostage on Tuesday.
The fate of a French family had been cast in doubt earlier when a Cameroonian minister denied they were free and a French minister backtracked on his claim they had been found alive.
Hopes for the seven members of the family were raised when a Cameroonian military source said they had been found safe and well in Nigeria.
France's veteran affairs minister Kader Arif confirmed that information, but later said he had merely been passing on media reports and said that "there is no official confirmation at this stage"
Cameroon's communications minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary later called the reports a "wild rumour."
France's foreign ministry said it could not confirm the release and warned against "spreading premature information," and a security source in Nigeria said there were "serious doubts" about whether the family had been freed.
The hostages, four children and three adults, were captured by gunmen this week while on a tourist excursion to the Waza national park near the Nigerian border with Cameroon.
A Western diplomat in the region told the AFP news agency that six armed kidnappers on three motorbikes had abducted a couple, their four children and an uncle.
It is the first time Western tourists have been kidnapped in Cameroon, although hostage taking frequently occurs off the Cameroonian coast, the last incident dating back to February 8.
Ansaru, a little-known Nigerian armed group, has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of seven foreigners in a deadly weekend raid on a construction site in the country's north.
Foreign minister Laurent Fabius said France would not give in to "terrorists," an apparent warning that a ransom would not be considered.
The defence ministry said a team of French gendarmes arrived in Cameroon on Tuesday to help with the probe, adding that they were being "protected by French soldiers."
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|William A. Cook|