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Hostage deaths bode ill for Nigeria

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By The Associated Press
Sunday, March 10, 2013, 9:12 p.m.
 

KANO, Nigeria — Radical Islamic fighters killed seven foreign hostages in Nigeria, European diplomats confirmed on Sunday, making it the worst such kidnapping violence in decades for a country beset by extremist guerrilla attacks.

High-ranking Nigerian officials remained silent about the killings of the construction company workers, kidnapped Feb. 16 from northern Bauchi state. The government's silence only led to more questions about the nation's continued inability to halt attacks, during which hundreds have been killed in shootings, church bombings and an attack on the United Nations.

The latest victims were four Lebanese and one citizen apiece from Britain, Greece and Italy.

Britain and Italy said all seven of those taken from the Setraco construction company compound had died at the hands of Ansaru, a splinter group of the Islamist sect Boko Haram.

“It's an atrocious act of terrorism, against which the Italian government expresses its firmest condemnation, and which has no explanation,” a statement from Italy's foreign ministry said.

Italian Premier Mario Monti identified the slain Italian hostage as Silvano Trevisan and promised Rome would use “every effort” to stop the killers. British Foreign Secretary William Hague called the killings “an act of cold-blooded murder” and identified the Briton as Brendan Vaughan.

A statement from Greece's foreign ministry said authorities had already informed the hostage's family. “We note that the terrorists never communicated or formulated demands to release the hostages,” the statement said.

Ansaru issued a short statement Saturday boasting of the deaths.

Ansaru, which analysts believe split from Boko Haram in January 2012, seems to be focusing much more on Western targets. Analysts said it has closer links to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and cares more about international issues, as opposed to Boko Haram's largely local grievances.

The hostage killings appear to be the worst in decades targeting foreigners working in Nigeria, an oil-rich nation that's a major crude supplier to the United States.

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