LAGOS, Nigeria – More than 30 assailants stormed a house in northern Nigeria, killing two people and kidnapping a French engineer, in the latest abduction to hit the West African nation, officials said Thursday.
The engineer, a contractor for French renewable energy firm Vergnet SA, appeared to have been the target, Katsina state police chief Abdullahi Magaji said. His neighbor and security guard were killed in the attack on the Frenchman's home Wednesday night in the town of Rimi, 15 miles from the city of Katsina, he said.
The assailants also attacked a nearby police station as they drove off with the hostage, but no one there was hurt, Magaji said. There had been no request for ransom or any other communication from the kidnappers Thursday evening, he said.
French President Francois Hollande, speaking to reporters during a state visit in Algeria, said French authorities would do all they could to free the hostage.
The attack comes amid a spate of ransom kidnappings, that usually last for a few days, in Africa's most populous nation, but most have occurred in Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta, a kidnapping hotspot.
Four South Koreans and a Nigerian working for Korea-based Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. were abducted Monday from a construction site in Bayelsa state, in the delta region.
The 83-year-old mother of Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was kidnapped earlier this month and held for five days in close-by Delta state.
This latest kidnapping, however, occurred in the northern part of Nigeria, which has only recently started to see kidnappings. They've also been longer and linked to terrorist groups rather than criminal gangs.
A Briton and an Italian kidnapped in Nigeria were abducted in May 2011 and executed about 10 months later as a commando rescue operation closed in on them. Nigerian authorities blamed a splinter group of the radical Islamist sect known as Boko Haram, but a sect spokesman denied the group's involvement. In a video released while the hostages were still alive, the kidnappers claimed that they were members of Al Qaeda.
The kidnappers had stormed Chris McManus' apartment, kidnapping him alongside Franco Lamolinara, about 350 miles from where Wednesday's kidnapping occurred.
Al Qaeda has been linked to other foreign kidnappings in the area.
Six aid group employees were abducted from the guesthouse in a central Niger town in October, said Niger officials who blamed Al Qaeda.
French officials also believe al-Qaeda-linked militants were behind the kidnapping of two French nationals in Niger's capital city of Niamey who died in a failed rescue attempt last year.