ABUJA, NIGERIA — Police say seven foreign construction workers were kidnapped and one Nigerian guard was killed during an attack on a police station, a prison and an international construction company in Bauchi State in northern Nigeria.
They say “hoodlums” kidnapped four Lebanese construction workers along with three Europeans - one Greek, one British and one Italian - after killing a civilian guard at their company's compound.
Bauchi State Police spokesperson Hassan Muhammed Auyo says the attacks started Saturday night, shortly after 9 p.m. He says the attackers tossed explosives into the police station and officers fought back. Two cars were destroyed, gunfire was exchanged, and the gunmen moved on to their next target: the local prison.
“After fire for fire with hoodlums they couldn’t succeed," said Auyo. "They proceed into prison yard in the same Jama'are area to attack with the intent of freeing the inmates there. But unfortunately to them, and fortunately to us we also repelled that attack.”
Auyo says the gunmen then fled to the compound of Setraco Nigeria Ltd., an international construction company, and killed a civilian security guard before kidnapping the seven foreign staff members.
Auyo says as of Sunday afternoon, the location of the victims was not known.
“The investigation is ongoing to track where the fleeing suspects or the victims are," said Auyo. "For both the kidnappers and the victims, police are making a frantic effort to ensure that we get there and ensure them, God willing.”
No one has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings but Boko Haram, a northern Nigerian Islamist militant group is known for targeting prisons and police stations.
However, some locals say they believe the perpetrators were motivated by money, not extremism. They say the raid on the police station and prison was intended to distract security forces so they could kidnap the foreigners, a practice that has long earned kidnappers millions of dollars in Nigeria.
Boko Haram is a shadowy militant group that has been blamed for more than 3,000 deaths since it began its insurgency in 2009. Late last month, what is believed to be a faction of the group announced a unilateral cease-fire, but violence in northern Nigeria continues.
Ardo Hazzad contributed to this report from Bauchi state, Nigeria.