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Nigerian President Says Some Foreign Hostages May Still Be Alive

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Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan
Goodluck Jonathan, president of Nigeria. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

March 18 (Bloomberg) -- Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said some of the seven foreigners kidnapped last month may still be alive.

The Islamist group known as Ansaru, which claimed responsibility for the abduction, said in a March 9 statement that it killed the hostages after British and Nigerian security forces were deployed to rescue them.

The Italian and Greek governments said on March 10 that the hostages had been killed, while the U.K. said they were probably dead.

“We really suspect that some probably have died either from health or other related causes or direct killing,” Jonathan told reporters today in Abuja, the capital, after meeting Lebanese President Michel Sleiman. “But we still believe that not all the seven have died.”

Three Lebanese, including a woman, were seized along with a Greek, an Italian, a Briton and a Filipino in a Feb. 16 attack on a residential compound of Setraco Nigeria Ltd., a construction company, in the northern state of Bauchi, according to the Nigerian authorities. A local security guard was killed in the raid.

The group, which is called Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladissudan, or “Group of Supporters of Muslims in the Land of the Blacks,” posted a video on Youtube that showed bodies on the ground and a masked man standing next to them, followed by close ups of the faces of three men who appear to have been shot.

“Even the release in the social media did not really show all the seven, so we are still working on it,” Jonathan said.

The government of Africa’s top oil producer has been battling another militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, 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.

To contact the reporters on this story: Elisha Bala-Gbogbo in Abuja at ebalagbogbo@bloomberg.net; Maram Mazen in Abuja at mmazen@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria at nseria@bloomberg.net

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