A group of foreign nationals kidnapped by an Islamist group in northern Nigeria last month have been killed, governments in Italy, Greece and the U.K. said.
Three Lebanese, including a woman, were seized along with a Filipino, a Greek, an Italian and a Briton in a Feb. 16 attack on a residential compound of Setraco Nigeria Ltd., a construction company, in Bauchi state, according to the Nigerian authorities. A local security guard was killed in the attack.
Today, U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague said the British hostage “is likely to have been killed at the hand of his captors, along with six other foreign nationals who we believe were also tragically murdered.” In separate statements, the Greek and Italian governments said their nationals had been killed.
The kidnappings were claimed by Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladissudan, or “Group of Supporters of Muslims in the Land of The Blacks,” which said it carried out the Feb. 16 attack in response to “the transgressions and atrocities done to the religion of Allah” by European nations in countries such as Mali and Afghanistan.
A statement claimed to be from the group on the Islamist Sinam al-Islam website yesterday said the hostages were killed after British forces deployed planes and soldiers to release them in a joint military operation with the Nigerian authorities.
“It’s an atrocious act of terrorism, against which the Italian government expresses its firmest condemnation, and which has no explanation, if not that of barbarous and blind violence,” the Foreign Ministry in Rome said in a statement.
Hague said the killings were “an act of cold-blooded murder, which I condemn in the strongest terms.”
Greece’s foreign ministry said in a statement that authorities had already informed its victim’s family.
“Nobody has reported to us up till this moment of the situation of the seven foreigners,” Bauchi state police commissioner Mohammed Ladan said today by phone.
Nigerian Police spokesman Frank Mba, army spokesman Ibrahim Attahiru and Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Mohammed Yerima didn’t answer two calls each to their mobile phones requesting comment. Presidential spokesman Reuben Abati’s mobile phone was switched off when contacted by Bloomberg News.
The government of Africa’s top oil producer has been battling Boko Haram, another militant Islamist group, which has carried out gun and bomb attacks in the north and killed hundreds of people since 2009. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with more than 160 million people, is roughly split between the largely Muslim north and the predominantly Christian south.