This Day (Lagos)

24 December 2012

Nigeria: Islamic Group Claims Responsibility for Kidnapping French Citizen

Photo: Leadership
Hostage-takers

Kano — The radical Islamist group, Ansaru, yesterday claimed responsibility for the recent kidnapping of a French citizen in Katsina State, citing France's push for military intervention in Mali as a justification.

This came as an explosion suspected to be bomb blast yesterday night rocked the Kano metropolis.

Ansaru "announces to the world, especially the French government, that it was responsible for the abduction of engineer Francis Colump, 63, working for the French company, Vergnet," said a statement e-mailed to journalists.

Vergnet has a wind power project in Katsina.

Late last Wednesday, some 30 gunmen stormed the workers' residence in Katsina where Colump was staying.

They killed a security guard and a neighbour during the raid.

"The reason for his kidnap is the stance of the French government and the French people on Islam and Muslims," the statement said.

The group specifically pointed to "France's major role in the (planned) attack on the Islamic state in northern Mali."

It also cited France's "law outlawing the use of Islamic veil by Muslim women, which is an infringement on religious rights."

Paris has backed plans to deploy a West African force to northern Mali to flush out the al-Qaeda-linked Islamist groups who took control of the vast desert territory earlier this year. Last year, it passed a law banning the wearing of the full-face veil.

"We inform the French government that this group will continue launching attacks on the French government and French citizens ... as long as it does not change its stance on these two issues," the Ansaru statement said.

In November, Britain's interior ministry identified Ansaru as a "Nigeria-based terrorist organisation" and declared membership or support for it illegal.

The group is thought to have ties to Boko Haram..

Ansaru was suspected of involvement in the kidnapping of a British and an Italian in northern Nigeria last year.

The Kano explosion, which occurred in Agangara area, near a local beer parlour in Badawa quarters, THISDAY gathered, caused pandemonium among the residents of the area, who immediately rushed into their houses.

Though details of the casualties from the explosion was not immediately known, it was, however, gathered, from sources that the combined team of the Joint Task Force (JTF) had condoned the area.

A security official told journalists that the incident was a minor explosion, even as he declined to mention if there were casualties or not.

Confirming the incident, the state Police Commissioner, Ibrahim Idris, said: "It's just a knock out dumped in a refuse but security are on top of the situation."

Idris advised residents not to panic, stressing that security agencies were doing their best to ensure peace and stability in the state.

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