Several European diplomats have confirmed the deaths of their nationals who were kidnapped in northern Nigeria last month by the Islamist group Ansaru. The hostages were working for a Lebanese construction firm.
Britain, Italy and Greece on Sunday each confirmed the deaths of citizens who had been held hostage for over a month and then reportedly killed Saturday by the Nigerian militant group Ansaru.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague confirmed that a Briton construction worker was likely among the hostages killed in Nigeria, "along with six other foreign nationals who we believe were also tragically murdered."
Hague condemned the act “in the strongest terms” and said Britain would work with the Nigerian government to bring those responsible to account.
The Italian Foreign Ministry also confirmed the attack in a statement. "Our checks conducted in co-ordination with the other countries concerned lead us to believe that the news of the killing of the hostages seized last month is true."
Italian Premier Mario Monti identified the slain Italian hostage and promised his government will use "every effort" to stop the killers.
The Greek Foreign Ministry also confirmed a death. "The information we have shows that the Greek citizen is dead," adding, that the family had been informed.
The four other hostages killed were reportedly Lebanese nationals, according to grainy photographs released earlier by their captors. However, Lebanon has not immediately released a statement about the attack.
The Nigerian Islamist group Ansaru announced on Saturday on an extremist website that it had killed seven foreign hostages seized on February 7 in the northern state of Bauchi from a compound of the Lebanese-owned construction firm Setraco. The militants said they carried out the murders because of attempts by Nigerian and British forces to free the hostages.
However, Greece and Italy have flatly denied any military operation had taken place.
Nigerian authorities said on Sunday they still had no information on any such killing, and on Saturday said they doubted the truth of the group's statement.
An official from the Lebanese owned Setraco construction company where the hostages worked, told the news agency AFP that he had been made aware of the report, but was unable to confirm it.
Ansaru is considered an off-shoot faction of Islamist extremist group Boko Haram. The divison claimed responsibility for the abduction two days after the kidnapping.
hc/ipj (Reuters, AFP, AP)