Boko Haram denies foreign hostage taking

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Nigerian terror group, the Boko Haram on Friday denied any involvement in the kidnapping of a Briton and Italian who were killed during a bid to rescue them in northwestern Sokoto city.

“We are not behind the hostage taking … which led to the military operation yesterday in Sokoto in which the hostages were killed,” said the group’s spokesman Abul Qaqa in a conference call with reporters.

“We have never been involved in hostage-taking and it’s not part of our style, and we never ask for ransom,” he said.

“We know how to settle our scores with anybody. Therefore the allegation that the kidnappers were members of our group is ridiculous.”

Nigeria’s government “had better get its facts straight and find the true identity of the kidnappers,” Qaqa added.

“They should not use us to mask their incompetence.”

The two expatriate workers were killed during a failed British-Nigerian military attempt to rescue them at a house in Nigeria’s far-northwestern city of Sokoto after nearly a year in captivity.

Britain said Italian engineer Francesco Molinara, 48, and his British colleague Chris McManus, 28, were shot by their captors before they could be rescued in the assault authorised by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said the kidnappers were from the Islamist group Boko Haram, which has waged a violent campaign of gun and explosives attacks mainly in the country’s northeast.

Witnesses in Sokoto however cast doubt on Jonathan’s assertion that the kidnappers were from the Islamist group.

They described an intense gun battle that lasted several hours and in which at least two hostage-takers were killed in the operation.

Diplomats have said some Boko Haram members have sought training abroad, but there had not been evidence of operational links with foreign groups.

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Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has in recent years claimed kidnappings of foreign workers in countries including Niger, which borders Nigeria to the north, but never in Nigeria. Sokoto state borders Niger.

Meanwhile, Italy on Friday condemned Britain’s failure to warn it ahead of a failed bid to rescue a pair of British and Italian hostages in Nigeria, as Boko Haram militants denied having abducted the pair.

“The behaviour of the British government, which did not inform or consult with Italy on the operation that it was planning, really is inexplicable,” President Giorgio Napolitano told reporters a day after the assault.

“There needs to be a political and diplomatic clarification,” he said.

And at an EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Copenhagen later Friday, Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata said he made Italy’s feelings clear during talks with British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

“I asked for detailed information because we have a right to maximum clarity on this episode,” said Italy’s foreign minister.

“I also communicated the immense suffering that this news caused an Italian family,” he told reporters.

“And I insisted that the information we have requested be sent to us as soon as possible, in the coming hours.”

Their comments reflected growing anger in Italy over the failed rescue bid, as witnesses in Sokoto in northwestern Nigeria described a British-Nigerian operation involving 100 troops, military trucks and a helicopter.

They said the intense gun battle that lasted for several hours, during which at least two hostage-takers were killed.

Britain said Italian engineer Francesco Molinara, 48, and his British colleague Chris McManus, 28, were shot by their captors during the assault.