Britain urgently checking Nigeria hostage video

Updated: 2011-08-04 16:04


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ABUJA - The British Foreign Office said on Thursday it was checking the authenticity of a video which appears to show a British man and his Italian colleague who were kidnapped in May in northern Nigeria.

The hostages in the video, which is around one-minute-long, say they were taken by al Qaeda, according to the AFP news agency, which was sent the video in Ivory Coast.

"We can confirm that two people, including a British national, were kidnapped in Nigeria on 12 May," a Foreign Office

statement said. "A video has been released allegedly showing the hostages and officials are urgently checking its authenticity."

The two men, who were working for a construction company, were seized from their accommodation in the capital of Kebbi state, which lies near Nigeria's northwestern borders with the countries of Niger and Benin, the Nigerian police said at the time.

The video shows hostages blindfolded and on their knees, while three armed men stand behind them with faces hidden by turbans, AFP said. It was not clear when the film was made and it could not be independently verified.

There were no details of the abductors or their demands. The hostages each read a statement, asking their governments to meet the demands of the kidnappers, who they said were al Qaeda.

"We are working to secure the hostages' safe and swift release. We ask those holding the two men to show compassion and release them, enabling them to rejoin their families," the statement from the Foreign Office said.

Hundreds of oil workers were kidnapped during years of militant attacks in Nigeria's oil-producing Niger Delta hundreds of kilometres away in the southeast, but such attacks are relatively rare in the north.

Al Qaeda's north African wing, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, is known to operate in neighbouring Niger and has kidnapped foreign workers there but this would be the first such incident in Nigeria.

Radical Islamist sect Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for almost daily shootings and attacks with homemade bombs in Nigeria's remote northeast in recent months.

The group, whose name roughly translates into "Western education is sinful" and wants sharia (Islamic) law more widely applied across Africa's most populous nation, have killed hundreds this year.

Intelligence officials have said in the past there is evidence to suggest some Boko Haram members have trained over the border in Niger but the group has an ill-defined command structure, a variety of people claiming to speak on its behalf, and an unknown number of followers.


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