July 30, 2008 3:24 PM

Kidnappers extract huge ransoms in forgotten part of Africa

Bouba Jafoul wore threadbare clothes and beat-up sandals, and his family rarely had enough to eat. But he owned 35 head of cattle, and deep in the central African jungle that made him, if not a wealthy man, then certainly a man of means. One steamy night last year, a mob of men with guns stormed into Jafoul's village and snatched his 7-year-old son, Karimou. One of them grabbed Jafoul by the neck and said, "We're keeping your boy, until you pay," he recalled.

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