Gunmen have stormed the compound of a Lebanese construction company in northern Nigeria, killing a guard and kidnapping seven foreign workers. Those abducted include a Briton, an Italian, a Greek and four Lebanese.
The kidnapping ranks as the biggest of its kind in Nigeria since an insurgency by Islamist militants intensified nearly two years ago.
No group has claimed responsibility for the abductions at a road construction camp run by the Lebanese firm Setraco in the town of Jama're in Nigeria's rural northern Bauchi state.
Local government chairman Adamu Aliyu said those kidnapped included one Briton, an Italian, one Greek and four Lebanese.
Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said the safety of the hostages must be given "absolute priority." Greece confirmed that one of its nationals was taken in the raid. The British embassy in Abuja announced that it was looking into the kidnapping.
Bauchi state's police chief, Mohammed Ladan, said gunmen first targeted a local prison and police station late on Saturday, burning two vehicles before heading to the construction camp.
"We repelled the attack on the police station and the security men at the prison yard also repelled the attack, but they burned two vehicles in Jama'are police station," Ladan said.
"They then attacked Setraco construction, killed a local security guard and they succeeded in kidnapping people," he said.
The radical Islamic sect known as Boko Haram has defied authorities across Nigeria's north over the past year and a half with a guerrilla campaign of shootings and bombings. The sect is blamed for killing at least 792 people in 2012 alone and has demanded the release of all its captive members. Those killed included both Christians and Muslims as well as soldiers and security forces.
In December the al Qaeda-linked group Ansaru claimed it had kidnapped a French national who is still missing.
Last May, gunmen in the northern Kaduna state killed a Lebanese and a Nigerian construction worker. Another Lebanese employee was kidnapped. Later that month, a German hostage was shot dead by kidnappers during a rescue operation.
For months, embassies have issued travel warnings to their nationals to avoid northern Nigeria.
ccp,ipj/mkg (AFP, AP, Reuters)