Video shows Briton, Italian hostages 'held by Al-Qaeda'

3rd August 2011, Comments 0 comments

A British man and an Italian kidnapped in May in northern Nigeria appear for the first time since their capture in a video sent to AFP Wednesday in which they say their abductors are from Al-Qaeda.

The roughly minute-long video sent to AFP in Abidjan is the first proof of life of the engineers since they were kidnapped from their apartment in Nigeria's northwestern Kebbi state on the border with Niger.

It was not clear when the film was made and this was impossible to verify independently.

The video shows the hostages blindfolded and on their knees. Three men holding weapons stand behind them, their faces hidden by turbans.

The hostages give their names, which AFP has chosen not to make public, and each deliver a statement urging their governments to meet the demands of the kidnappers, whom they say are from Al-Qaeda.

The Italian hostage refers to "these Al-Qaeda people", while his British colleague asks his government "to meet the demands of Al-Qaeda."

However no details of the abductors or their demands are given.

The engineers work for the B. Stabilini construction company, founded by Italians but based in Nigeria. They were kidnapped on May 12 by gunmen who stormed their apartment in Birnin Kebbi, capital of Kebbi state.

Police said at the time that a German colleague managed to escape by scaling a fence, while a Nigerian engineer was shot and wounded. Nigerian authorities had said that they had not had any contact with the abductors.

The workers were involved in construction of a Nigerian central bank building.

The video is accompanied by photographs of the hostages without their blindfolds. A source close to the case told AFP on condition of anonymity that the photographs are "about 10 days" old.

The British Foreign Office and foreign ministry in Rome refused to comment about the video and photographs.

Abductions are rare in mainly Muslim northern Nigeria although there have been numerous kidnappings for ransom in the south, around the oil-producing Niger Delta region.

Al-Qaeda's north African branch, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), has claimed kidnappings of foreign workers in neighbouring Niger in recent years, but never in Nigeria.

The Islamist Boko Haram sect is active in northern Nigeria, where it has carried out a series of deadly attacks, mainly in the northeast, but there has been no indication so far it has ever been involved in kidnappings.

"No one can tell you who the kidnappers are and what they really want because they have not made any contact," a subcontractor on the central bank project told AFP on condition of anonymity.

He said work on the project had stalled, with the site engineer -- the German who escaped during the kidnapping -- so shaken that he was relocated to the capital Abuja.

"In fact, everybody is disturbed and concerned about the safety and the condition of the two men," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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