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Published: Saturday May 17, 2014 MYT 8:15:02 PM
Updated: Saturday May 17, 2014 MYT 8:16:04 PM

Suspected Boko Haram rebels attack Chinese work site in Cameroon

YAOUNDE (Reuters) - Suspected Boko Haram rebels from Nigeria attacked a Chinese work site in northern Cameroon on Friday and at least 10 people are believed to have been kidnapped, the regional governor said on Saturday.

The Chinese embassy in Yaounde confirmed the attack at a site near the town on Waza, 20 km (12 miles) from the Nigerian border close to the Sambisa forest, a Boko Haram stronghold.

The Islamist group kidnapped more than 200 girls from a school on the Nigerian side of the border last month and Nigerian troops backed by foreign units are searching the area around the forest for them.

Friday's incident began when power was cut in the evening. A five-hour gunfight followed, a guard at the Waza National Park told Reuters.

"Some of us decided to hide in the forest with the animals," the guard said, requesting anonymity.

The governor of Far North Region, Augustine Fonka Awa, said he believed Boko Haram had carried out the attack. Authorities are investigating reports that at least one Cameroon soldier was killed and 10 people were abducted, he said.

The Chinese state new agency Xinhua quoted Chinese officials as saying one person was injured.

The Chinese embassy suspended visits to the area.

"For companies operating in the northern part of Cameroon in particular, they should instantly start security contingency plans," the embassy said in a statement. At least two Chinese enterprises operate in the region. Xinhua said an engineering unit of state-run construction company Sinohydro, which is repairing roads, operated the camp.

Yan Chang Logone Development Holding Company, a subsidiary of China's Yanchang Petroleum, is exploring for oil.

Boko Haram has staged several attacks in northern Cameroon during its five-year fight to set up an Islamist state. Last month, it attacked a police post killing two people. The rebels kidnapped a French family in February 2013.

West African leaders were meeting in Paris on Saturday to improve cooperation in the fight against Boko Haram and other militant groups.

Nigerian authorities say Cameroon has not done enough to secure its border because Boko Haram has been using the sparsely populated Far North region as a transit route for weapons and as a rear base for attacks in northeastern Nigeria.

Cameroon said in March it would send 700 soldiers to its northeastern border as part of regional efforts to tackle the armed group.

Outrage over the kidnapping of the schoolgirls has prompted Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, criticised at home for his government's slow response, to accept U.S., British and French intelligence help in the hunt for the girls.

(Additional reporting by Anne-Mireille Nzouankeu in Yaounde, Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Bate Felix in Abuja and Chen Aizhu in Beijing, Writing by Bate Felix, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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