Islamist group Ansaru on Monday claimed the kidnapping of seven foreigners in a deadly weekend raid on a construction site in restive northern Nigeria.
The attack in Bauchi state late Saturday was the one of the worst incidents targeting foreigners in northern Nigeria, a region that has seen waves of violence by extremist Islamist groups, but relatively few kidnappings.
Ansaru is considered a new group with a rising profile after it claimed the abduction of a French national in December.
Some view it as being directly linked to Boko Haram, the Islamist insurgents blamed for killing hundreds of people in northern Nigeria since 2009.
In an email statement sent to journalists, Ansaru said it has “the custody of seven persons, which include Lebanese and their European counterparts working with Setraco,” the Lebanese-owned company targeted in the attack.
Police in Bauchi said four Lebanese, one Briton, a Greek citizen and an Italian were among those taken hostage by gunmen who stormed the site in the town of Jama’are in Bauchi state. The assailants shot dead a security guard.
Ansaru’s two-paragraph statement cites “the transgressions and atrocities done to the religion of Allah… by the European countries in many places such as Afghanistan and Mali”.
The group previously listed French support for the military offensive against Islamist rebels in Mali as a justification for the December kidnapping.
The document was written in English, like some past statements. However, others have been written in Hausa, a language used widely across west Africa.
Residents in Jama’are, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) from the state capital, said Setraco evacuated all of its staff from the company compound on Sunday and a company spokesman told AFP its road project had been stopped.