Boko Haram denies hostage involvement….as neighbours say no sect members in Sokoto

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The hostages being paraded allegedly by Boko Haram

The British and Italian hostages killed in Sokoto in North-West Nigeria had no connection with Boko Haram as the sect never took interest in hostage taking, it has emerged.

According to a leader of the sect in an electronic message to a media house in Nigeria, at no time has Boko Haram got entangled in hostage taking and therefore all connection to Boko Haram in the hostage saga should be discontinued.

The information now is forcing the Nigeria security  authorities dusting their investigation tables to commence a new line of investigation into circumstances leading to the death of two European hostages, who had been reportedly held by members of the religious sect  the Boko Haram.

The two hostages died on Thursday during a rescue operation involving Nigerian and British security special forces.

According to French News agency, AFP, local residents of the calm but hot and dusty city of Sokoto, the base of Nigeria’s supreme Muslim leader, the Sultan of Sokoto, disagree the Islamist group was behind the kidnapping.

He claimed that the men must have been held by kidnappers.

“We don’t believe it,” a 40-year-old businessman living in the neighbourhood told AFP. “They are kidnappers. We don’t have Boko Haram in Sokoto.”

According to reports, around a hundred troops, military trucks and two helicopters were deployed in a failed hostage rescue bid in Sokoto for the rescue exercise in which the  Briton and the Italian  were killed, witnesses said on Friday.

However, adding more to this development  is the claim by an online newswire which reported that  militant sect in Northern Nigeria, Boko Haram has denied any involvement in the kidnap  issue .

According to Newdiaryonline, the  group said in message forwarded  Friday afternoon claimed that  it does not engage  in such acts of  hostage taking or kidnapping..

The hosteges,  Briton Chris McManus and Italian Franco Lamolinara were killed on Thursday  by their captors in Northern Nigeria  as the operation to rescue the captives went wrong.

A ccording to Newsdiaryonline, a source close to Boko Haram said Friday afternoon that “following the failed rescue attempt by Nigerian/British intelligence agencies Thursday, Boko Haram  spokesman Abul Qaqa has strongly refuted  speculation that his group was behind the  hostage- taking.

“We have never been involved in such acts of kidnapping  “,Qaqa reportedly said.It is a known fact that the group has not denied any act it has been involved in .

“Today’s denial may add further complications to the security challenges ravaging the north and Nigeria as a whole,as it may be an indication that some other unknown elements may be responsible for the dastardly act”, newdiary reported.

Witnesses said the captors and the security forces waged a gun battle lasting seven hours before eventually some dead bodies started to emerge.

Chris. the British Hostage who died during the operation

While officials gave few details about the operation or those involved, newspapers in London said that it had included members of the British elite forces Special Boat Service (SBS) who had been in Nigeria for a fortnight.

Residents said at least 100 soldiers were involved in the operation.

They came in two trucks and a tank and blocked the entrance to the house.

“At around 11 am I saw soldiers coming… uncountable, about 100. They started firing,” said the businessman, asking not to be named.

Another resident earlier said “around 100 troops surrounded the area.”

Residents said two helicopters had hovered over the middle class Mabera neighbourhood mid-morning on Thursday before the shootout broke out.

The kidnappers apparently tried to flee the troops by scaling a wall into a next-door house which was partially built.

Soldiers asked residents for old tyres which they lit and tossed into the building in a bid to smoke the kidnappers out, then engaged them in an intense gun battle, the witnesses told AFP.

“After the shootout had been going on for about seven hours, the soldiers gained access into the house,” said a witness whose house is directly opposite.

“Initially they brought out two dead bodies I believe to be white men, followed by two bodies of dark-skinned people I believe to be among the gunmen,” said the witness.

The witness reported seeing three men taken out of the house in handcuffs. They also said a private security guard at the uncompleted house was killed in crossfire.

Bullet holes poked the walls of the two houses which were unguarded on Friday. Residents walked in and out at will.

At least two hostage-takers were killed in the operation along with British national Chris McManus, 28, and Italy’s Franco Lamolinara, they added.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan blamed the deaths of the hostages on members of the Islamist group Boko Haram, which has waged a violent campaign mainly in the northeast of the country. He said the killers had been arrested.

Sokoto sits on the border with Niger, on the southern edge of the Sahara desert.

British Prime Minister David Cameron meanwhile took responsibility for authorising the operation to rescue the two expatriate engineers who were kidnapped in May.

His Italian counterpart Mario Monti convened a security committee meeting over Britain’s failure to consult Rome before approving the rescue bid.

Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano was quoted as saying that the failure to inform Rome about the bid was ‘inexplicable’.

British and Nigerian authorities had been concerned from the start that the kidnappers were Islamist extremists as they had ignored a large amount of cash that the men had stored in the apartment where they were abducted, according to British media.

Cameron said the bid to rescue the men had been authorised after “a window of opportunity arose to secure their release”.

He said the two hostages were held by “terrorists” who had made “very clear threats to take their lives”, and they had been in “imminent and growing danger”.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague said that there had been “limited time” and too many “constraints” to consult Italy ahead of the operation.

British media said that Nigerian intelligence officials had tracked the group to Sokoto. GCHQ, Britain’s intelligence listening centre, identified and monitored the telephone calls of the gang.

Around a dozen members of the SBS had been helicoptered in to rescue the hostages on Thursday, British reports said.

AFP received a video showing McManus and Lamolinara in August. In the footage, both men said their kidnappers were from Al-Qaeda.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, has in recent years claimed kidnappings of foreign workers in countries including Niger, which borders Nigeria to the north, but never in Nigeria.

The two were kidnapped by heavily armed men from their apartment in neighbouring Kebbi state in May 2011. They were working for a construction firm Stabilini Visinoni which was helping build a central bank office in the city.

Boko Haram has been blamed for increasingly deadly and sophisticated attacks in Nigeria.