British national kidnapped in Lagos released

A British citizen who was kidnapped by gunmen shortly after landing at the international airport in Nigeria's largest city has been released, an official said Monday.

"We can confirm the release of the British national... following his abduction on July 16," said Wale Adebajo, spokesman at Britain's Deputy High Commission in Lagos, specifying that the hostage was freed on Sunday.

He made no comment on whether a ransom had been paid.

Security sources had said that the abduction was carried out as the Briton was travelling from the airport in Lagos's Ikeja neighbourhood towards the city centre.

His driver was reported to have been shot and injured in the attack.

In southern Nigeria, there have been waves of kidnappings targeting foreigners, with the hostages typically released following a ransom payment.

Employers and officials rarely discuss such payments.

Most of the attacks have occurred around the oil-rich coast involving expatriates working in the energy sector, but there has also been a rise of such incidents in Lagos.

The spike in abductions here is related to a crackdown on criminal gangs elsewhere in country, said Onah Ekhomu of Transworld Security.

"There has been a large displacement of criminals from other parts of country and as a result an inflow into Lagos state," said the expert on crime matters in Nigeria.

He pointed specifically to the southeast, which had been notorious for abductions, as an area where police have re-enforced their efforts.

Relocating to Lagos, a city of some 15 million people, is a "natural" move for small-scale criminal outfits engaged in ransom-kidnappings, he said.

The uptick in abductions in recent months is not limited to foreigners, but has involved Nigerian victims as well, including some local politicians, Ekhomu added.

In March a British man working for the French energy company CGG was kidnapped in the upscale Victoria Island area of the city.

He was released days later, with officials refusing to confirm reports that a ransom had been paid.

There have also been a number of recent reported kidnappings targeting the city's large Lebanese population.

Foreigners have also been targeted in the north, but those attacks are considered different. They have been blamed on Islamist extremists and in several cases have led to the deaths of the hostages.

At least two Britons are believed to have been kidnapped and killed in the north by the extremist group Ansaru, an offshoot of Boko Haram, the Islamist insurgents who have also targeted foreigners.