BAUCHI, Nigeria – A little-known Islamic extremist group claimed responsibility Monday for the kidnapping of seven foreign workers from northern Nigeria, threatening their safety if anyone tried to intervene and free them.
The group that calls itself Ansaru issued a short statement, obtained by the Associated Press, in which it said its fighters kidnapped the foreigners Saturday night from a construction company’s camp at Jama’are, a town about 125 miles north of Bauchi, the capital of Bauchi state.
Authorities said those kidnapped include one British citizen, one Greek, one Italian, three Lebanese and one Filipino, all employees of a Lebanese construction company called Setraco.
The statement said Ansaru committed the abduction “based on the transgression and atrocities shown to the religion of Allah by the European countries in many places such as Afghanistan and Mali.” Currently, the French military is conducting operations with the Malian army to rout Islamic fighters who took over that country’s north in the weeks after a military coup there last year.
“It is stressed that any attempt or act contrary to our conditions by the European nations or by the Nigerian government will” endanger the hostages, the statement read.
Police and security officials in Nigeria did not immediately respond to the statement. Greek and Italian diplomats have confirmed their citizens were abducted. Britain’s Foreign Office said Monday it is aware of reports that a number of foreign nationals including a British national were abducted. It said the Foreign Office is in contact with the Nigerian authorities.
The U.S. Embassy in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, issued a statement earlier Monday saying none of those taken were U.S. citizens.
In January 2012 Ansaru declared itself a breakaway group from Boko Haram, the north’s main terrorist group, analysts say. The attack Saturday in Jama’are saw gunmen first assault a local prison and burn police trucks, authorities said. Then the attackers blew up a back fence at the construction company’s compound and took over, killing a guard in the process, witnesses and police said.