Thursday, 31 May 2012

Nigeria: Killing of German national highlights northern kidnap threat

According to reports, a German national kidnapped in the northern city of Kano in January has been killed in a failed rescue attempt. At the time of his abduction, Edgar Fritz Raupach had been working as a supervising engineer for the Nigerian construction company, Dantata and Sawoe (D&S). A video message recorded by Raupach was sent to the German government in March by the kidnappers, whom he claimed were 'Mujahid'. The kidnappers are believed to be members of Al Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which operates in neighbouring Niger and Mali, and which is believed to have links to the domestic Islamist group Boko Haram.

Apparently, Raupach was killed during a raid by Nigerian security forces at a location in Kano's Danbare Quarters, near the new campus of Bayero University. Eyewitnesses claim to have seen his corpse inside a military vehicle transporting militants away from the site following the conclusion of the raid.

Although at a relatively low level compared to the peak of expatriate kidnapping in the Niger Delta, abduction of foreigners is increasing across the north of the country as armed Islamist groups expand their activities – indeed, an Italian engineer was reportedly kidnapped on 28 May in Kwara State (western Nigeria).

The government is struggling to respond to the threat – Raupach's killing is the second time in four months that a rescue attempt has failed, resulting in the death of the captives. In March, a Briton and an Italian national were killed in a botched rescue attempt in Sokoto, despite assistance from British security forces.

Although at a less extreme level, the challenges posed by Islamist kidnapping are of a different order to those in the Delta. The groups involved appear less motivated by financial reward: the demand of Raupach's kidnappers was the release of a Muslim woman imprisoned in Germany.

Non-financial demands make it more difficult to secure the release, since most governments refuse to bow to 'political' demands. In the north, abductees are often transported across substantial distances, impeding detection. The abductee may also change hands between groups, further complicating efforts to identify the kidnappers.

For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

© 2012 Menas Associates

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