SOKOTO, Nigeria (Reuters) - Gunmen kidnapped a Briton and an Italian from their lodge in Nigeria’s northwestern town of Birnin-Kebbi, shooting and wounding one person who tried to prevent the attack, police said on Friday.
The two men, who were working for a construction company, were seized from their accommodation late on Thursday in the capital of Kebbi state, which lies near Nigeria’s northwestern borders with the countries of Niger and Benin.
Kebbi state police commissioner Adamu Hassan said the police and army had cordoned off the town in the hope that the hostages were still there, but had also put the security services in neighbouring states and in Niger Republic on alert.
“One person who attempted to rescue the victims was shot and is in hospital,” Hassan told reporters.
Hundreds of oil workers were kidnapped during years of militant attacks in Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta hundreds of kilometres away in the southeast, but such attacks are relatively rare in the north.
Hostages in the Niger Delta were generally quickly released after payment of a ransom. Police in Kebbi said no ransom demand had been made.
Some previous kidnappings of foreign workers in other parts of Nigeria have resulted from disputes over wages and working conditions for local staff.
While kidnappings are rare in Nigeria’s mostly-Muslim north, several foreigners have been seized over the border in Niger.
Kidnappers last month demanded 90 million euros for the return of four French hostages captured in Niger and being held by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), al Qaeda’s north African wing.
Security sources say there is some evidence to suggest contact between Boko Haram, a radical Islamist sect in Nigeria’s remote northeast, and AQIM but there has been no published evidence of any al Qaeda presence in northwestern Nigeria.