Jonathan, Cameron lament
Govt confirms arrest of masterminds
ANOTHER sad chapter was yesterday added to the worrisome terrorism now domiciled in Nigeria as Italian and British hostages held by kidnappers suspected to be members of Boko Haram sect were confirmed killed in Birnin Kebbi by the group. The incident occurred during an attempt by Nigerian and British security operatives to free them.
Until the killing of the hostages, revealed yesterday by British Prime Minister, David Cameron, the authorities in Nigeria and the UK, had kept the kidnap of the victims, which reportedly occurred on May 12 last year, top secret.
The victims were Chris McManus from Northwest, England and Franco Lamolinara, an Italian.
The Nigerian and British governments yesterday condemned the killing of the two engineers, who were working with a construction firm in Birnin Kebbi and condoled with their families.
British Prime Minister, David Cameron, who spoke on the incident yesterday, explained that the two men were killed by gunmen in Birnin Kebbi during a failed attempt by Nigerian and British forces to rescue them.
Both men had been working for Stabilini Visinomi, an Italian construction firm, when they were kidnapped from their abode in Birnin Kebbi.
In a reaction last night, President Goodluck Jonathan described their death as “sad, unfortunate and regrettable.”
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, the President “extends heartfelt condolences to the families of the bereaved and the people and government of Britain and Italy.”
Jonathan, who particularly acknowledged the co-operation and understanding of the British and Italian governments, assured that the perpetrators of the murderous act, who have all been arrested, would face the full wrath of the law.
The President also assured that the government would take necessary steps to protect foreigners in the country.
Although the British Foreign Office was believed to have been working behind the scene to secure their release since then, Cameron affirmed that a window of opportunity to free them had arisen after receiving “credible information about the (men’s) location.” Nigerian forces, supported by their British counterparts, subsequently went into action, he said.
Cameron said it was “with great regret” that he had to announce that both men had lost their lives in the subsequent operation. He noted that the families of the victims “have endured a terrible ordeal and this is a devastating moment for all of them.”
He thanked the Nigerian authorities and Jonathan for their efforts to find the abducted men and combat terrorism.
He said: “I also want to pay tribute to all those, including United Kingdom (UK) personnel, who worked so hard to try to bring Chris home safely. I am very sorry that this ended so tragically. Terrorism and appalling crimes, such as these, are scourge on our world.”
The full text of Cameron’s statement reads: “The effort to free Chris McManus from the North West of England, and an Italian, being taken hostage, was launched by Nigerian forces with the assistance of the UK.
‘’Chris McManus, a British citizen, was taken hostage by terrorists in northern Nigeria in May 2011. He was taken hostage with his colleague, an Italian national, Franco Lamolinara.
‘’Since then, we have been working closely with the Nigerian authorities to try to find Chris and Franco, and to secure their release.
‘’The terrorists holding the two hostages made very clear threats to take their lives, including in a video that was posted on the Internet.
‘’After months of not knowing where they were being held, we received credible information about their location.
‘’A window of opportunity arose to secure their release.
‘’We also had reason to believe that their lives were under imminent and growing danger.
‘’Preparations were made to mount an operation to attempt to rescue Chris and Franco. Together with the Nigerian government, today (yesterday), I authorised it to go ahead, with UK’s support.
‘’It is with great regret that I have to say that both Chris and Franco have lost their lives.
‘’We are still awaiting confirmation of the details, but the early indications are clear that both men were murdered by their captors before they could be rescued.”
He then said: ‘’Our immediate thoughts must be with Chris and Franco’s families, and we offer them our sincerest condolences.
‘’Both families have endured a terrible ordeal, and this is a devastating moment for all of them.
‘’The Foreign Office has been in regular contact with the McManus family since Chris’s capture. I spoke to them just before Christmas and I have spoken to them again with the news this afternoon.
Cameron also said: ‘’I want to take this opportunity to thank the Nigerian authorities, and President Jonathan personally, for all they have done to help find Chris, and combat terrorism.
‘’I also want to pay tribute to all those, including UK personnel, who worked so hard to try to bring Chris home safely. I am very sorry that this ended so tragically.
‘’I ask that the media respect the family’s privacy and allow them time to come to terms with their loss.
‘’Terrorism and appalling crimes such as these are a scourge on our world. No one should be in any doubt about our determination to fight and to defeat them.’’
Meanwhile, Yemi Ajayi, deputy force public relations officer, told The Guardian last night: “We don’t have such information yet. We are trying to get in touch with the Kebbi State command on the true state of things.”