Britain checking Nigeria hostages video

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Britain's Foreign Office said Thursday it was checking the authenticity of a video obtained by AFP showing a British man and an Italian kidnapped in Nigeria in May in which they say they were abducted by Al-Qaeda.

The footage, sent to AFP's office in the Ivory Coast capital, Abidjan, shows the hostages blindfolded and on their knees, with three men holding weapons standing behind them, their faces hidden by turbans.

"A video has been released allegedly showing the hostages and officials are urgently checking its authenticity," a Foreign Office spokeswoman said.

"We regret the public release of material such as this and urge the media not to speculate at this sensitive time."

The spokeswoman added: "We can confirm that two people, including a British national, were kidnapped in Nigeria on 12 May.

"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.

"We are in close contact with the Nigerian and Italian authorities and the company who employ the men."

Italy's foreign ministry also said it was trying to verify the authenticity of the video.

It is not clear when the footage was made.

The two men are engineers working for B. Stabilini, an Italian construction company based in Nigeria. They were seized by gunmen who stormed their apartment in Birnin Kebbi, capital of Kebbi state in northwestern Nigeria on the border with Niger.

In the video, 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.

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

Abductions are rare in the mainly Muslim north of Nigeria although there have been numerous kidnappings for ransoms in the oil-producing Niger Delta region in the south of the country.

© 2011 AFP

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