Two Italian priests and a Canadian nun have been kidnapped by gunmen in northern Cameroon, Italy's foreign ministry has said.

The attack occurred overnight in the north of the west African country. 

The Italian foreign ministry said that two priests from Italy's northern Vicenza region had been seized, but it gave no other details.

Armed gunmen pulled up to the buildings where the priests and the nun were staying at around 2am.

They ransacked the buildings before taking the hostages.

Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported on its website that the victims were staying in the northern Maroua region.

It borders the part of northern Nigeria that is a stronghold of the Boko Haram Islamist group.

One of the two priests has been in Cameroon for more than six years, while the second arrived around a year ago, Ansa news agency reported.