By Ola Awoniyi (AFP)
Abuja: A British and an Italian hostage kidnapped in Nigeria nearly a year ago were killed on Thursday as a rescue operation sought to save them, and Nigeria said their Islamist extremist murderers were arrested.
The killing of the two men kidnapped in May 2011 brought a shocking end to their saga and left many unanswered questions after British Prime Minister David Cameron announced their deaths and took responsibility for authorising a rescue.
They were killed in far northwestern Nigeria, Nigeria’s president said, and residents reported an hours-long shootout in an area of the city of Sokoto at a building under construction, though authorities had not confirmed details.
Cameron said he had given the go-ahead for a rescue after “credible information” was received about the location of Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara.
He said the Nigerian authorities, with British support, had launched the attempt to rescue the men after “a window of opportunity arose to secure their release”.
“Preparations were made to mount an operation to attempt to rescue Chris and Franco. Together with the Nigerian government, today I authorised it to go ahead, with UK support,” Cameron said.
“It is with great regret that I have to say that both Chris and Franco have lost their lives.
“We are still awaiting confirmation of the details, but the early indications are clear that both men were murdered by their captors, before they could be rescued.”
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan blamed their deaths on Islamist group Boko Haram in a statement and said the killers had been arrested.
Boko Haram, blamed for scores of attacks in Nigeria, had not been previously known to carry out kidnappings. There has been intense speculation over whether the group has formed ties with Al-Qadea’s north African branch.
In a statement from his office, Jonathan condemned the killing “by their Boko Haram captors before they could be rescued by a joint security raid on the kidnappers’ hideout”.
“The president … assured that the perpetrators of the murderous act, who have all been arrested, would be made to face the full wrath of the law,” the statement added.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti phoned Jonathan to ask him to provide “a detailed reconstruction” of the events, his office in Rome said.
But former Italian prime minister Massimo d’Alema, now in charge of a parliamentary committee dealing with security issues, criticised the attempted rescue operation, which he said was apparently mounted without Italy being notified.
Cameron said the two hostages had been held by “terrorists” who had made “very clear threats to take their lives”, and the captives had been in “imminent and growing danger”.
AFP received a video showing McManus and Lamolinara in August. In the footage, both men said their kidnappers were from Al-Qaeda.
In a second video received by a Mauritanian news agency and seen by AFP in December, masked gunmen threatened to execute McManus if their demands were not met. McManus’s family said in a statement they were “devastated”. “We knew Chris was in an extremely dangerous situation. However we knew that everything that could be done was being done,” they said.
Diplomats have said some Boko Haram members have sought training abroad, but there had not been evidence of operational links with foreign groups.
Al-Qaeda’s north African branch, known as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, has in recent years claimed kidnappings of foreign workers in countries including Niger, which borders Nigeria to the north, but never in Nigeria.
Sokoto state is located in far northwestern Nigeria and neighbours Kebbi. Both states border Niger.
Residents said a shootout lasting some seven hours occurred Thursday at a building under construction in the Mabera area of the city of Sokoto, capital of Sokoto state.
They reported that at least two people believed to be among the kidnappers were killed, but authorities did not confirm the report.
The two hostages were kidnapped by heavily armed men who stormed their apartment in the city of Birnin Kebbi in May 2011. They had been helping build a central bank building in the city and worked for construction firm Stabilini Visinoni.
While scores of foreigners have been kidnapped for ransom in Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta region, abductions in the mainly Muslim north have been relatively rare.
A German citizen was kidnapped in January on the outskirts of the northern city of Kano. That kidnapping came in the wake of January 20 coordinated bombings and shootings in Kano claimed by Boko Haram which left 185 people dead.
Boko Haram has been blamed for increasingly deadly and sophisticated attacks in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer.
It claimed responsibility for the August suicide bombing of UN headquarters in the capital Abuja which killed at least 25 people, while its deadliest attack yet was the January 20 siege of Kano.
Nigeria’s 160 million population is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.
USAfrica: Ikemba ODUMEGWU OJUKWU’s farewell in Aba, today February 28, 2012, reflected a fitting tribute, historically meaningful celebration, proper regard and deserving appreciation of the greatest Igbo, in my opinion, to have ever lived (like him or hate him).
I SALUTE Aba (aka Enyimba city), the robust and fearless town I was born, bred and raised, for giving the Ikemba, our Ochiagha, Gburugburu, Oka oburu uzo, dike na ndu ma n’onwu, mgbadike anyi, a hero’s farewell.
To the Ikemba, may your valiant soul rest in peace and dignity.
We will, and I, Chido Nwangwu, will never forget to continue to tell my generation and the next about your towering courage through tempest and thunder; through sorrow, pain, tears, blood….
•Dr. Chido Nwangwu, Founder & Publisher of USAfrica multimedia networks, first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com; and recipient of several journalism and public policy awards, was recently profiled by the CNN International for his pioneering works on multimedia/news/public policy projects for Africans and Americans. http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/international/2010/07/29/mpa.african.media.bk.a.cnn.
• For seasoned insights and breaking news on these issues, log on to USAfricaonline.com and USAfrica powered e-groups including Nigeria360 at yahoogroups and USAfrica at googlegroups. Follow us at Facebook.com/USAfricaChido and Twitter.com/Chido247
• For seasoned insights and breaking news on these issues, log on to USAfricaonline.com and USAfrica powered e-groups including Nigeria360 at yahoogroups and USAfrica at googlegroups. Follow us at Facebook.com/USAfricaChido and Twitter.com/Chido247For racist Soccer actions, Liverpool’s player Suarez should be suspended. By Chido Nwangwu. Follow us at Facebook.com/USAfricaChido and Twitter.com/Chido247Nigeria’s Federal Republic of Insecurity. By Chido Nwangwu, Publisher of USAfrica, USAfricaonline.com and the Nigeria360 e-group. https://usafricaonline.com/2011/12/17/nigeria-federal-republic-of-insecurity-by-chido-nwangwu/ : IF any of the Nigerian President’s 100 advisers has the polite courage for the extraordinary task of reminding His Excellency of his foremost, sworn, constitutional obligation to the national interest about security and safety of Nigerians and all who sojourn in Nigeria, please whisper clearly to Mr. President that I said, respectfully: Nigerians, at home and abroad, are still concerned and afraid for living in what I call Nigeria’s Federal Republic of Insecurity. FULL text of commentary at USAfricaonline.com https://usafricaonline.com/2011/12/17/nigeria-federal-republic-of-insecurity-by-chido-nwangwu/Related insight: USAfrica’s October 17, 2001 special report/alert: Nigeria’s bin-Laden cheerleaders could ignite religious war, destabilize Africa. By USAfrica’s Publisher Chido Nwangwu. https://usafricaonline.com/chido.binladennigeria.htmlhttp://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=USAfrica+Chido+Nwangwu+al-qaeda+terrrorism+nigeria&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8
310 killed by Nigeria’s ‘talibans’ in Bauchi, Yobe n Maiduguri; crises escalate. USAfricaonline.com on July 28, 2009. www.usafricaonline.com/chido.ngrtalibans09.html
Related and prior reporting on the Jos crises on USAfrica, click here: https://usafricaonline.com/2011/08/16/10-killed-in-renewed-violence-near-jos/
News archives related to Jos, here https://usafricaonline.com/?s=jos
USAfrica: As Egypt’s corrupter-in-chief Mubarak slides into history’s dustbin. By Chido Nwangwu. https://usafricaonline.com/2011/01/30/chido-nwangwu-as-egypt-corrupter-in-chief-mubarak-slides-into-historys-dustbin-egyptians-not-waiting-for-obama-and-united-nations/
Tunisia, Egypt . . . Is Nigeria next? By Prof. Rosaire Ifedi https://usafricaonline.com/2011/02/13/tunisia-egypt-is-nigeria-next-by-prof-rosaire-ifedi/