A British worker was among eight expatriates kidnapped in northern Nigeria yesterday in the worst such incident in a region beset by terrorist attacks from fundamentalists linked to al-Qa'ida.
Teams of armed men in four-wheel-drive vehicles stormed a Lebanese construction company's walled compound in Jamaale, killing a Nigerian security guard and taking the hostages.
The Briton, a Greek, an Italian and five Lebanese – including a woman and her baby daughter – were kidnapped, state police said.
The raid comes close to a year since a failed SBS mission to rescue Chris McManus (28), a British engineer from Oldham, who had been held hostage in northern Nigeria for 10 months. He and an Italian colleague, Franco Lamolinara, from Italy, were killed by their Islamist kidnappers.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for yesterday's kidnapping.
The semi-arid region in Nigeria's majority-Muslim far north has been plagued by armed Islamic fundamentalists and bandits.
Boko Haram, the best-known extremist group in the area, was suspected last week of killing three North Korean doctors in a town only 80 miles to the east of Jamaale.
The kidnappers initially launched coordinated raids on the prison and the police station in the town, more than 350 miles north of Abuja, the Nigerian capital.
This was understood to have been a diversion while other attackers peeled off to attack the construction compound.
British diplomats in Abuja were working to confirm details of the missing Briton, who had not been named.
Mr McManus, the hostage who was killed in last year's botched rescue, was held by a previously unknown group calling itself al-Qa'ida In The Land Beyond The Sahel. It has not been heard of since.
Ansaru, a Boko Haram splinter group with close ties to Islamists in northern Mali, was the main suspect for yesterday's kidnappings.
The group, which emerged in June 2012, said it kidnapped a French engineer in December in an area close to Katsina, a border city in northern Nigeria.
The eight people seized yesterday were working for Setraco, a construction subsidiary of a Lebanese company that has been operating in Nigeria for 35 years.
It is understood that it had won the contract to upgrade major roads through the region, and has residential and construction compounds in other towns in northern Nigeria.
There was no suggestion that the company had been targeted specifically, police said.
In December, Setraco closed all its projects in the southern Delta State after three foreign workers, thought to have been Lebanese, were kidnapped in separate attacks.
Nigeria is one of the world's most dangerous countries for kidnappings of foreign workers. Some 224 expatriate staff were taken hostage between 2007 and 2011 in the country's oil-producing south. (© Daily Telegraph, London)