The Nigerian militant group Boko Haram took the unusual step of holding a conference call with reporters to deny any involvement in the kidnapping that killed two foreign workers in Sokoto.
Briton Chris McManus and Italian Francesco Molinara were killed Thursday as British and Nigerian special forces attempted a rescue; they were both engineers.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan blamed Boko Haram, an Islamist extremist group that has launched numerous bloody attacks in that country.
“We have never been involved in hostage-taking, and it’s not part of our style, and we never ask for ransom,” Boko Haram spokesman Abul Qaqa said during the conference call, SKY News said. “We know how to settle our scores with anybody. Therefore the allegation that the kidnappers were members of our group is ridiculous.”
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McManus and Molinara were kidnapped last May. They were in Nigeria working for a construction company.
In reaction, Nigerian police arrested five suspects, Reuters reported.
A neighbor reported seeing police remove five bodies from the compound where the botched rescue occurred.
“After all the gunfire, I saw soldiers bring out five dead bodies from the house. Two were white, three were black,” Murtala Naboro Tsafe told Reuters.
The dead foreign workers appeared in a video last year and said they were being held by Al Qaeda, which is said to be funding and training Boko Haram.
Other witnesses said 100 troops, 2 helicopters and a tank supported the raid, AFP reported.
The battled reportedly lasted several hours.
“At around 11 a.m. I saw soldiers coming ... uncountable, about 100,” a witness said. “They started firing.”
Other neighbors said soldiers asked them for tires, which they lit and threw over the compound walls to smoke out the kidnappers.
An anonymous security source told AFP the rescue operation was rushed, and it didn’t have sufficient intelligence.
“The problem was that the situation was under-rated and the risk to the hostages was not properly assessed,” the source said. “It looks like they were in a hurry to rescue the hostages.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron approved the mission after arrested Boko Haram leaders said the two foreign workers were in jeopardy.
“On Tuesday, the security agencies were able to arrest the factional leader of Boko Haram, Abu Mohammed and four members of the sect,” a source told SKY News. “These five suspects … later showed the security agencies the compound where the hostages were holed up. But they also raised concern that the hostages might be killed unless security agencies quickly moved into the compound to free them.”
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