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 nun, 74-year-old Gilberte Bussières, is from Asbestos, Que. and belongs to the Montreal-based Congrégation de Notre-Dame. According to the congregation, Bussières has worked in Africa since 1979.
Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs says it is aware of the kidnapping.
“We are pursuing all appropriate channels to seek further information and are in close contact with Cameroonian authorities,” said Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Caitlin Workman, in a statement.
Italy's foreign 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.
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.