NAIROBI, Kenya – Western governments acknowledged Sunday that a violent Islamist militia in northern Nigeria had probably executed seven foreign hostages, deaths that the governments called barbaric and cold-blooded.
The group, Ansaru, announced Saturday that it had executed seven construction workers kidnapped last month in what appeared to be a well-planned, targeted attack.
The Italian and Greek foreign ministries announced Sunday that they believed the claim.
“The verifications carried out in coordination with the other interested countries lead us to believe that the news of the killing of the hostages is founded. This is a horrific act of terrorism for which there is no explanation except barbaric and blind violence,” the Italian Foreign Ministry said in a written statement.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said it was believed that a British hostage had also probably been killed by his captors. “This was an act of cold-blooded murder, which I condemn in the strongest terms,” he said.
The hostages included three Lebanese; the others were from Italy, Britain, Greece and the Philippines.
Ansaru is a breakaway militia from the Nigerian Islamist insurgent group Boko Haram, which has been mounting regular attacks in the northern part of the country since about 2009.
Gunmen attacked a compound owned by a Lebanese-owned company, Setraco, on Feb. 16 in Bauchi state and seized the workers, announcing that it was acting in revenge for European actions in Mali and Afghanistan. It warned that if there were any efforts to mount a rescue, the hostages would be killed.