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Police: 7 foreigners kidnapped in north Nigeria

Gunmen attacked a camp for a construction company in rural northern Nigeria, killing a guard and kidnapping seven foreign workers from Britain, Greece, Italy, Lebanon and the Philippines, authorities said yesterday, in the biggest kidnapping yet in a region under attack by Islamic extremists.

The attack Saturday night happened in Jama’are, a town in Bauchi state. There, the gunmen first attacked a local prison, burning two police trucks, Bauchi state police spokesman Hassan Muhammed told the Associated Press.

The gunmen then targeted a workers’ camp for Lebanese construction company Setraco, which is building a road in the area, Muhammed said. The gunmen shot dead a guard at the camp before kidnapping the foreign workers, the spokesman said.

“The gunmen came with explosives, which they used to break some areas,” Muhammed said. He did not elaborate and an AP journalist could not immediately reach the town, which is about 125 miles north of the state capital, Bauchi.

One British citizen, one Greek, one Italian, three Lebanese and one Filipino were kidnapped, said Adamu Aliyu, the chairman of the local government area. He said one of the hostages was a woman, while the rest were men. He initially had said four of the hostages were Lebanese. He blamed the confusion on incorrect information he received from his staff.

Italian news agency ANSA later said authorities confirmed an Italian had been kidnapped. It quoted Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi saying the safety of the hostage must be given “absolute priority.”

Greece confirmed one of its citizens was abducted. A statement from Greece’s foreign ministry said authorities had a plane on standby to send investigators to Nigeria and that its foreign minister had been in contact with Terzi.

“Two Greek police officers, liaisons in Greece’s Nigerian Embassy, are in contact with their colleagues of the countries involved and the Nigerian authorities,” the statement said.

Britain’s Foreign Office said yesterday it was looking into the kidnappings.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the abductions, though Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north has been under attack by the radical Islamic sect known as Boko Haram in the last year and a half.

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