Kebbi kidnap: Video 'shows men captured in Nigeria'

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A video allegedly showing a British man and his Italian colleague kidnapped in May in the north-western Nigerian state of Kebbi has been released.

In the footage, which was sent to the AFP news agency in Ivory Coast, they say their abductors are from al-Qaeda.

It shows the hostages blindfolded and on their knees, with three men holding weapons standing behind them.

The British Foreign Office said it was urgently checking its authenticity and urged against speculation.

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

The Italian foreign ministry also urged restraint and said it was working closely with its British and Nigerian counterparts.

If confirmed, this would be the first time that al-Qaeda's North African branch has operated in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country and one of the world's major oil producers.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb mainly operates in the lawless Sahara desert region north of Nigeria, in Niger, Mali and Algeria.

The two men were captured by gunmen on the evening of 12 May from their lodgings in Birnin Kebbi, the capital city of Kebbi state which borders Niger.

They were engineers working for B Stabilini, an Italian construction firm based in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb

  • Emerged during Algerian war in the 1990s as Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC)
  • Declared allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2006, changing its name accordingly
  • Operates in the lawless Sahara desert regions between Niger, Mauritania, Mali and Algeria
  • Carries out frequent terror attacks and kidnappings for ransom or to demand the release of prisoners
  • Killed some 26 people in an attack on UN offices in Algiers in December 2007
  • Suspected members have been arrested in several Western European countries

Another foreign employee managed to escape during the raid; a Nigerian neighbour who came to help was shot at and wounded.

The engineers were involved in the construction of the state headquarters for the Central Bank of Nigeria in Birnin Kebbi.

According to AFP, the hostages give their names in the video, which is roughly a minute long, and each deliver a statement urging their governments to meet the demands of the kidnappers.

They say the men holding them are from al-Qaeda, but give no further details of the abductors or their demands.

"We ask those holding the two men to show compassion and release them, enabling them to rejoin their families," the British Foreign Office said.

Correspondents say kidnappings for ransom are uncommon in the north-west of Nigeria.

It is the southern oil-producing Niger Delta where expatriates are often targeted for kidnapping.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has kidnapped several Westerners in neighbouring countries in recent years.

Most of those have been freed, often amid unconfirmed reports of ransom payments but in 2009, the group said it had killed a British man, Edwin Dyer, who had been seized in Niger.

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