Nigerian Islamist extremist group, Ansaru, says it has killed seven foreigners taken hostage from a construction site in northern Nigeria last month.
The online post made on an extremist website on Saturday has been identified as coming from the group, but has not yet been verified by Nigerian officials, or the countries where the hostages are reportedly from.
The message is said to include photographs of the deceased who were abducted in February. At the time of the February 16 kidnapping, it was reported the victims included four Lebanese, one Briton, a Greek citizen and an Italian.
"Al-Qabidun 'Ala al-Jamr' (Grippers of Embers) Media Foundation, an affiliate of the Sinam al-Islam Network, released a statement in both Arabic and English, along with still shots from a video showing the dead hostages," the SITE Intelligence Group said
“In the communiqué, the [extremist] group stated that the attempts by the British and Nigerian governments to rescue the hostages, and their alleged arrest and killing of people, forced it to carry out the execution,” SITE said.
Rescue bid denied by governments
On Sunday, the Greek and Italian governments said denied any rescue attempt was made by any government forces.
"There was never any military attempt to rescue the hostages by any of the governments concerned," said the Italian foreign ministry.
The killing of the hostages could have "no explanation other than blind and barbaric violence," the ministry added.
The abductors in their post had claimed that the hostages were killed after British warplanes were reportedly sighted in the northern Nigeria city of Bauchi by local media. "As a result of this operation the seven hostages were killed," the [extremist] group said.
The group said a comment made by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan when he visited the region on Thursday, that the government would do anything in its power to free the hostages, had also led to the group's decision to kill the hostages.
An official from the Lebanese owned Setraco construction company where the hostages worked and where their operation was based, 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.
jlw/ipj (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)