Foreign construction workers abducted in northern Nigeria

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BAUCHI, Nigeria -- Gunmen attacked a camp for a construction company in rural northern Nigeria, killing a guard and kidnapping seven foreign workers from Britain, Greece, Italy, Lebanon and the Philippines, authorities said Sunday, in the biggest kidnapping yet in a region under attack by Islamic extremists.

The attack Saturday night occurred in Jama'are, a town in Bauchi state. There, the gunmen first attacked a local prison, burning two police trucks, Bauchi state police spokesman Hassan Muhammed said.

The gunmen then targeted a workers' camp for Lebanese construction company Setraco, which is building a road in the area, Mr. Muhammed said. The gunmen shot dead a guard at the camp before kidnapping the foreign workers, the spokesman said.

"The gunmen came with explosives, which they used to break some areas," Mr. Muhammed said. He did not elaborate and an Associated Press journalist could not immediately reach the town, which is about 125 miles north of the state capital, Bauchi.

One British citizen, one Greek, one Italian, three Lebanese and one Filipino were kidnapped, said Adamu Aliyu, the chairman of the local government area that encompasses Jama'are. He said one of the hostages was a woman, while the rest were men.

Italian news agency ANSA later said authorities confirmed an Italian had been kidnapped.

Greece confirmed one of its citizens was abducted.

Britain's Foreign Office said Sunday it was looking into the kidnappings.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the abductions, though Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north has been under attack by the radical Islamic sect known as Boko Haram in the past year and a half. The country's weak central government has been unable to stop the group's guerrilla campaign of shootings and bombings. The sect is blamed for killing at least 792 people in 2012 alone, according to an AP count.

Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the Hausa language of Nigeria's north, has demanded the release of all its captive members and called for strict Shariah law to be implemented across the entire country. The sect has killed Christians and Muslims, as well as soldiers and security forces.

The group, which speaks to journalists in telephone conference calls at times of its choosing, could not be immediately reached for comment Sunday.

Foreigners, long abducted by militant groups and criminal gangs for ransom in Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta, have become increasingly targeted in Nigeria's north as the violence has grown. However, abductions of foreigners in the north have seen hostages regularly killed.

In May, gunmen in Kaduna state shot and killed a Lebanese and a Nigerian construction worker, while kidnapping another Lebanese employee. Later that month, kidnappers fatally shot a German hostage during a rescue operation.

world


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