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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, saw around 30 adults and 50 children taken hostage by the Islamist group, according to a military source.

“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.

The weekend raid was the largest abduction ever carried out in Cameroon's far north region by Boko Haram and comes amid mounting fears the group is expanding its operations into neighbouring countries.

Cameroon had come under attack last Monday when it said its troops repelled a raid by Boko Haram on a northern military base, killing 143 militants in the process.

Brutal raids, massacres, suicide bomb attacks and kidnappings by the Islamists have claimed at least 13,000 lives and driven an estimated 1.5 million people from their homes, mainly in its stronghold in northeast Nigeria.

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

(AFP, REUTERS, FRANCE )

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