Five British military planes have arrived at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, suggesting that an operation to rescue the seven expatriate workers of SETRACO Construction Company who were abducted over the weekend in Jama’are Local Government Area of Bauchi State.
The foreign workers, who included five Lebanese, a Briton and an Italian, were abducted last Saturday by unknown gunmen in Bauchi.
The bombers, which were parked at the international wing of the airport, might be on their way to prepare ground for the eventual rescue of the hostages.
The jet bombers were said to have arrived in the early hours of yesterday while their colours comprised three grey and two army green. The army green jets were marked “Royal Army”.
It was also observed that some foreign soldiers donning brown camouflage unif0rms were sighted entering one of the army jets preparing for departure, as it was further gathered that some of the jets had started leaving the airport for certain locations to assist in the rescue of the kidnapped foreigners.
The four grey-coloured jets departed the Abuja airport at about 5.55pm, leaving only the army-green jet at the airport as at press time.
According to a military source, the entry of the jets was to prevent the recent failed rescue operation in Sokoto where the terrorists killed the foreigners before they could be rescued by the security agencies, including foreign officers.
However, the British High Commissioner, Mr Rob Fitzpatrick, explained the presence of the jets as a “routine military-to-military engagement.”
Two hostages, Chris McManus (Britain) and Franco Lamolinara (Italy), were found dead in Sokoto on March 9, 2012, during a failed joint rescue mission by the British Special Forces and the Nigerian military. A group that claimed ties to al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, which happened in May 2011.
The rescue attempt began in the morning in Sokoto’s Mabera neighbourhood, a sprawling maze of sandy roads and single-storey cement homes on what used to be fertile farmland surrounding the city of 500,000 people. Residents said a seemingly unending barrage of gunfire followed, as did an attack led by a military armoured personnel carrier.
Once inside in the compound, soldiers found the two men had been killed. But details of how and when they died remained unclear
Information from the raid came from individuals arrested by Nigeria’s security agencies before the operation, a senior official in Nigeria said. However, British officials worried the kidnappers would realise “the net was closing” on their location.
The rescue effort ended months of uncertainty about what happened to McManus and Lamolinara. McManus was working for construction company B.Stabilini when he was kidnapped on May 12, 2011, by gunmen who stormed his apartment in the city of Birnin-Kebbi, about 110 miles (180 kilometers) away from Sokoto. Lamolinara was also abducted.
A German colleague managed to escape by scaling a wall, but a Nigerian engineer was shot and wounded.
A video later released showed the kidnappers claiming they belonged to al-Qaida and threatening to kill McManus and Lamolinara if their demands were not met.
Britain’s Foreign Office had said two men were held by terrorists associated with Boko Haram, a radical Islamist sect in Nigeria blamed for more than 300 killings this year alone. A senior British government official said the kidnappers appeared to be from an al-Qaida-linked cell within Boko Haram, but not within the group’s main faction.