Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Heat on Nigeria as Islamist group claims kidnapping

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Monday that London was in touch with Nigerian authorities following the reports that a Briton was among the seven, but that he had no further information.

Heat on Nigeria as Islamist group claims kidnapping

Islamist group Ansaru on Monday claimed the kidnapping of seven foreigners, including one Briton, in a deadly raid on a construction site in restive northern Nigeria at the weekend.

The attack in Bauchi state late on Saturday was one of the worst incidents targeting foreigners in northern Nigeria, a region that has seen waves of violence by extremist Islamist groups, but relatively few kidnappings.

Ansaru is considered a new group with a rising profile after it claimed the abduction of a French national in December and some view it as being directly linked to Boko Haram, the Islamist insurgents blamed for killing hundreds of people in northern Nigeria since 2009.

In an email statement sent to journalists, Ansaru said it has "the custody of seven persons, which include Lebanese and their European counterparts working with Setraco," the Lebanese-owned company targeted in the attack.

Police in Bauchi said four Lebanese, one Briton, a Greek citizen and an Italian were among those taken hostage by gunmen who stormed the site in the town of Jama'are in Bauchi state.

Ansaru's two-paragraph statement cites "the transgressions and atrocities done to the religion of Allah ... by the European countries in many places such as Afghanistan and Mali".

The group is thought to have some ties with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which has secured huge profits from the abduction of foreigners in several North African countries.

The governments of Greece and Italy have confirmed that their citizens were among those taken hostage. Beirut has acknowledged that two Lebanese nationals were seized, but has not matched the police figure of four.


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