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Lebanese among kidnapped in northern Nigeria

People loiter around the Haye dispensary on February 8, 2013 in the northern Nigerian city of Kano, where gunmen on motorised tricycle killed seven female polio immunisation workers. AFP PHOTO / Aminu ABUBAKAR

BAUCHI, Nigeria: Gunmen kidnapped at least two Lebanese workers and killed a security guard when they stormed Lebanese construction company Setraco’s compound in northern Nigeria’s Bauchi state early Sunday, police said.

Estimates varied, but between two and four Lebanese were thought to be among a group of seven foreign abductees.

According to the state-run National News Agency, the Lebanese Embassy in Nigeria told Foreign Affairs Minister Adnan Mansour that two Lebanese had been kidnapped: Imad al-Indari and Carlos Abu Aziz.

Mansour said he instructed the embassy to make the necessary contacts to secure the release of the Lebanese.

The other hostages included a Briton, an Italian and a Greek citizen, police and local government officials said, with some outlets also reporting that a citizen of the Philippines was kidnapped. The incident was the worst case of foreigners being kidnapped in the mostly Muslim north of Africa’s most populous country since an insurgency by Islamist militants intensified nearly two years ago.

The Italian and Greek foreign ministries confirmed that one of their nationals was taken in the raid. Britain said it was investigating.

No one took responsibility for the raid, but northern Nigeria is plagued by attacks and kidnappings by Islamist groups. Al Qaeda-aligned group Ansaru, which only rose to prominence in recent months, claimed to be behind the kidnap in December of a French national who is still missing.

Ansaru is thought to have loose ties to Boko Haram, which has killed hundreds during a three-year-long insurgency focused mostly on Nigerian security forces, religious targets and politicians rather than foreigners.

Bauchi Police Chief Mohammad Ladan said the gunmen attacked a police station and a prison overnight before storming the construction firm’s compound in the town of Jama’are.

“We repelled the attack on the police station and the security men at the prison yard also repelled the attack, but they burnt two vehicles in Jama’are police station,” Ladan said. “They then attacked Setraco construction, killed a local security guard and they succeeded in kidnapping people.”

Police said they were intensifying efforts to track down the kidnappers in the areas around Jama’are, a remote town around 480 km northeast of the capital Abuja. Setraco did not respond to requests for comment.

In May, gunmen shot and killed a Lebanese and a Nigerian worker, kidnapping another Lebanese employee.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 18, 2013, on page 3.

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