Seven foreign hostages kidnapped last month by a Nigerian Islamist group from a construction firm’s compound have been killed, the Italian and Greek Foreign Ministries said on Sunday.
A news report from MSNBC reported that Al Qaeda-affiliated group Ansaru claimed responsibility for killing the hostages, seized on 7 February in the northern state of Bauchi because of attempts by Nigerian and British forces to free them.
According to a statement from the Italian Foreign Ministry, its checks had led it to believe that the ‘news of the killing’ was true.
Security has become a top concern for oil and infrastructure companies across the region, after gunmen loyal to Al Qaeda’s North African franchise stormed an Algerian gas plant in January.
Up to 37 foreigners died during an attempted rescue mission by Algerian forces. The risk posed by Islamists across west and north Africa has greatly increased since France sent troops to Mali to wrest control of its northern territory from Al Qaeda linked rebels.
Islamist groups have also spread across the north and centre of Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer, where they have become the main security threat, after an amnesty ended an uprising by armed groups in the oil-producing south-eastern Niger Delta.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said of the Briton’s murder, ‘This was an act of cold-blooded murder, which I condemn in the strongest terms’.
The news is the latest in a series of attacks by the Islamist and terrorist-funded organisation Boko Haran, which has been carrying out bombings and raids on Christian homes, schools and places of worship across northern Nigeria.