Hostage group killed in Nigeria - reports
THE Italian foreign ministry has said it believes a group of hostages in Nigeria - including one British national - are dead, according to an Italian news agency.
Ansa quoted from an Italian foreign ministry statement which said all seven hostages had been killed.
The Italians said checks carried out in cooperation with the other interested countries led them to believe news of the killing of the hostages taken last month in Nigeria was true.
The statement said: "It is an atrocious act of terrorism, against which the Italian Government expresses the most firm condemnation, for which it can find no explanation, except barbarous and blind violence."
The British Foreign Office said last night it was "urgently investigating" claims by a breakaway Islamic extremist group that said it killed seven foreigners whom its members kidnapped from northern Nigeria.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are aware of reports of the death of a British national in Nigeria and are urgently investigating.
"We urge the media not to speculate at this extremely sensitive time."
The message from the extremist group, identified as Ansaru, was published online yesterday and could not be immediately verified.
It said Ansaru members killed the hostages after British warplanes were reported to have been seen in the northern Nigeria city of Bauchi by local journalists.
In a statement, the group said: "As a result of this operation, the seven hostages were killed."
On that matter, the British Foreign Office said today: "There are a number of deployments as parts of various engagements in Africa which will include the movement of assets."
The message included photographs the group claimed showed the dead, who were kidnapped from a construction company compound in February.
Those kidnapped included three Lebanese citizens and one each from Britain, Greece, Italy and the Philippines - all employees of Setraco, a Lebanese construction company with an operation in Bauchi state, local officials said at the time.