Sunday 24 February 2013

British, Italian hostages: Security agents in dilemma over rescue/ The Nation

Security agents are proceeding with utmost care in their search for the seven expatriates abducted by terrorists in Bauchi State penultimate Saturday, it was learnt last night.
The agents are keen to avoid a repeat of the loss of a Briton and an Italian during a military operation to rescue them from kidnappers in Sokoto on March 8, 2012.

Their target this time is to ensure that all the seven employees of the construction company, SETRACO, who were seized by members of the Islamic sect, Jama’atu Ansaril Muslimina fi Biladis Sudan (Vanguard for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa, or simply “Ansaru”), return home alive.
In the den of the kidnappers are five Lebanese, a Briton and an Italian.
Sources said in Abuja that the security agencies saddled with the task of locating and setting the hostages free have adopted a ‘tactical’ approach to accomplishing the task without bloodshed.

One of the sources said: “Certainly, we have got appreciable clues but our ultimate target is to rescue the hostages alive. All hands are on the deck to meet this target.
“We have established that Ansaru has a link with Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb. The group might have been hurt by the UN intervention in Mali. We are approaching the operation from both local and end and Mali side.

“We have got a marching order from the presidency to ensure that this mission is successful. And it is also in our interest to carry out a successful operation.”

It was also gathered that most construction firms with expatriate workers have resolved to adopt “limited engagement” in the 19 Northern states.
This, according to one source, is based on security advice.

“We have adopted a policy of limited engagement in the North. Apart from security beef up, we may carry out contracts only in safe states in the region,” sources said, adding:”Virtually all construction firms in the North have recalled their foreign expatriates until the security situation improves.”

It was learnt that the extra security measure was put in place on the advice of several embassies and the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO).
The latest FCO advice reads in part: “The main terrorist threat in northern Nigeria comes from Islamist extremists who aspire to establish Islamic law in Nigeria.

“The majority of attacks occur in Borno and Yobe States, but there has been a significant increase in attacks in other Nigerian states, mainly in the north.
“Attacks are mostly against Nigerian targets including government and security institutions, police stations and places of worship, but public places have also been targeted.
“The attack against the United Nations building in Abuja in August 2011, which killed 23 people, shows that international and Western interests could be targeted.”

Some British aircraft are said to have arrived Nigeria bearing security officials from London to assist their Nigerian counterparts in the operation.
Ansaru emerged last year motivated by an anti-Nigerian Government and anti-Western agenda.

It is believed to be broadly aligned with Al Qa’ida and responsible for the murder of British national Christopher McManus and his Italian co-worker, Franco Lamolinara, last March in Sokoto during an operation by security personnel to free them.

The wife of one of the guards who held the Briton and an Italian hostage, Hauwa, said the two men were taken into a bathroom and shot dead during the attempt to rescue them.
Chris McManus and Italian Franco Lamolinara were kidnapped in May 2011 while working for a construction company in Birnin Kebbi.

Hauwa said bullets flew into the room where she and her husband were staying, killing her husband.
“After that, there were about six men who came out of the house with the two hostages,” she said. “They came into our wing of the compound, pushed the captives into the toilet and just shot them. I screamed.”

She said she had lived in the house for four months after her husband got a job there as a guard. But she said she never suspected anything was wrong.

The people using the main house arrived at night and usually left very early in the morning, she said.
Ansaru claimed responsibility for the kidnap of a French national in Katsina State on 20 December 2012. It also claimed responsibility for the attack on a detention facility of the police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Abuja on 26 November 2012.


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