Police: British hostage taken in Nigeria released

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Associated Press

Posted on March 28, 2013 at 5:32 AM

Updated Thursday, Mar 28 at 6:07 AM

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — A British man abducted in Nigeria's largest city has been released by his kidnappers, a police spokeswoman said Thursday, as other foreigners have been kidnapped in the country's commercial capital in recent days.

The release of the British citizen comes after three Lebanese citizens were also kidnapped. Abductions of foreigners remains common in Nigeria for political reasons or cash ransoms, but such kidnappings remain rare in Lagos and could spark more fears among investors and workers in a nation facing increasing insecurity with extremist attacks across its north.

The man, who authorities said was abducted Saturday likely while coming home from a nightclub in Victoria Island, was freed unharmed, said Ngozi Braide, a Lagos state police spokeswoman. Braide said she did not have any information on whether a ransom had been paid for the man's release. However, it is likely a ransom was paid as police did not make any arrests for the kidnapping.

A spokesman for the British High Commission in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, confirmed the man had been released but offered no details.

Meanwhile, three Lebanese men living in Lagos were kidnapped, the nation's foreign ministry said Thursday. The ministry identified those kidnapped as Mohammad Haidar, Ali Matar and Karim Matar and said it suspected the abduction was a kidnapping for ransom. The ministry declined to comment further and Nigeria authorities did not immediately respond to requests for comment regarding the abductions.

In recent years, Nigeria has had a spate of ransom kidnappings, which usually last for a few days and which have focused on the country's oil-rich region. Most did not involve violence and saw the hostages released after their employers offered ransoms into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Recently, however, Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north has also started to see foreigners kidnapped by radical Islamic extremists as bargaining chips for both cash and political demands. Those kidnappings last months and have seen hostages killed by the abductors or during military operations to free them.

Currently, a French family kidnapped Feb. 19 from northern Cameroon near Nigeria's border remains held. Men claiming to be members of the radical Boko Haram Islamic extremist network said in a video that they would not free a kidnapped French family unless Nigeria and Cameroon freed all the group's imprisoned members. A Boko Haram splinter group known as Ansaru also recently killed seven foreign hostages it held.

The kidnappings and violence come ahead of Easter weekend. Last year, a suicide car bomber detonated his explosives in the city of Kaduna after apparently turning away from a church holding Easter services, killing at least 41 people.

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Associated Press writer Zeina Karam in Beirut, Lebanon, contributed to this report.

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Jon Gambrell can be reached at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP .

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