The Ansaru statement hinted that it would kill the hostages and vaguely referenced a previous kidnapping. The group earlier claimed the kidnapping in December of a French national working on a renewal energy project in Nigeria’s northern Katsina state.
Britain also linked Ansaru to the May 2011 kidnapping of Christopher McManus, who was abducted with Italian Franco Lamolinara from a home in Kebbi state. The men were held for months, before their captors killed in March 2012 them during a failed Nigerian military raid backed up by British special forces in Sokoto, the main city in Nigeria’s northwest.
Authorities initially blamed Boko Haram for the kidnapping, something that it denied. That apparently represented the public’s first brush with the group, whose motivations remain murky, but whose threat is increasingly real for foreigners in northern Nigeria.
In November, Britain’s interior ministry announced that a parliamentary order that makes membership in or support of Ansaru a criminal offense.
Jon Gambrell reported from Johannesburg and can be reached at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP .
Associated Press writers Cassandra Vinograd in London, Bashir Adigun in Abuja, Nigeria, and Yinka Ibukun in Lagos, Nigeria, contributed to this report.