Kidnapped Briton, Italian ‘held by al Qaeda`

The engineers were kidnapped on May 12 by gunmen who stormed their apartment in Birnin Kebbi.

Abidjan: A British man and an Italian kidnapped in May in northern Nigeria appear for the first time since their capture in a video sent to a news agency on Wednesday in which they say their abductors are from al Qaeda.

The roughly one-minute-long video is the first proof of life of the engineers since they were kidnapped from their apartment in Nigeria`s northwestern Kebbi state on the border with Niger.

It was not clear when the film was made and this was impossible to verify independently. The video shows the hostages blindfolded and on their knees. Three men holding weapons stand behind them, their faces hidden by turbans.

The hostages give their names and each deliver a statement urging their governments to meet the demands of the kidnappers, whom they say are from al Qaeda.

However, no details of the abductors or their demands are given.

Italy`s Foreign Ministry released a statement late Wednesday saying it was following the event "with the upmost attention" in liaison with the British Foreign Office.

"The video of the two hostages which has been broadcast by the press is obviously being examined closely by the relevant institutions to confirm its authenticity," it said.

The British Foreign Office refused to comment on the video and photographs.

The engineers work for the B Stabilini construction company, founded by Italians but based in Nigeria. They were kidnapped on May 12 by gunmen who stormed their apartment in Birnin Kebbi, capital of Kebbi state.

Police said at the time that a German colleague managed to escape by scaling a fence, while a Nigerian engineer was shot and wounded. Nigerian authorities had said that they had not had any contact with the abductors.

The workers were involved in construction of a Nigerian central bank building.

The video is accompanied by photographs of the hostages without their blindfolds. A source close to the case said on condition of anonymity that the photographs were "about 10 days" old.

Abductions are rare in mainly Muslim northern Nigeria although there have been numerous kidnappings for ransom in the south, around the oil-producing Niger Delta region.

Al Qaeda`s north African branch, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), has claimed kidnappings of foreign workers in neighbouring Niger in recent years, but never in Nigeria.

The Islamist Boko Haram sect is active in northern Nigeria, where it has carried out a series of deadly attacks, mainly in the northeast, but there has been no indication so far it has ever been involved in kidnappings.

"No one can tell you who the kidnappers are and what they really want because they have not made any contact," a subcontractor on the central bank project said on condition of anonymity.

He said work on the project had stalled, with the site engineer -- the German who escaped during the kidnapping -- so shaken that he was relocated to the capital Abuja.

"In fact, everybody is disturbed and concerned about the safety and the condition of the two men," he said.

Bureau Report

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