Saturday, March 9, 2013

Nigeria: Muslim terrorists claim they have executed 7 foreign hostages

RIYADH/LAGOS (Reuters) - A Nigerian Islamist group said on Saturday it had killed seven foreign hostages seized last month from a construction firm's compound in northern Nigeria, where Islamist insurgents have killed hundreds over the past two years.

But Nigerian authorities said they had no information on any such killing, and doubted the veracity of the statement.

In a statement released on an Islamist website, the Ansaru group said it had killed the hostages in response to attempts by Britain and Nigeria to free them, SITE Monitoring Service reported.

Ansaru is one of several Islamist groups that have become the main security threat in Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer. The al Qaeda-aligned group blasted into the compound of Setraco, a Lebanese construction company, on February 7, abducting a Briton, an Italian, a Greek and four Lebanese workers.

The statement issued in Arabic and English on an affiliate of the Sinam al-Islam network was accompanied by screen shots of a video purporting to show the dead hostages, SITE said.

One shot showed a man with gun standing above several figures lying on the ground. The image was not clear enough to see if they were dead or much detail about them.

The hostage-taking, in the remote town of Jama'are in Bauchi state, was the biggest number of foreigners seized in the mostly Muslim north since the Islamist insurgency there intensified two years ago.

"As far as I'm concerned, and to the best of my knowledge, nothing like that has happened," Bauchi Police Commissioner Mohammed Ladan told Reuters when asked about the online statement.

An intelligence official in the north also said he doubted the report, although he said some suspects linked to the kidnapping had been arrested last week.

Lebanese officials said they were checking the reports. Italy's foreign ministry also said it was checking. Britain did not officially comment.

Mohammed Abdullah, a spokesman for Setraco, also said he had heard nothing about any harm done to the hostages.