French national kidnapped in northern Nigeria

Thu Dec 20, 2012 3:05pm EST
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By John Irish and Joe Brock

PARIS/ABUJA (Reuters) - A French energy worker has been kidnapped in northern Nigeria after 30 gunmen attacked a residence and killed a policeman and a security guard protecting the foreign employee, officials said on Thursday.

No group claimed credit for the abduction but Islamist groups linked to Boko Haram, which has killed hundreds in an insurgency this year, have been behind similar kidnappings in the past and become the biggest security threat to Africa's largest oil exporter.

Local Nigerian police spokesman Aminu Sadiq Abubakar said the attack took place on Wednesday in the town of Rimi about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Katsina, very close to the border with Niger. A police station nearby had also been bombed and some inmates freed from detention, Abubakar said.

The kidnapped worker was employed by French renewable energy firm Vergnet, officials said. A Paris-based Vergnet executive confirmed the kidnapping.

Vergnet is a French firm specializing in wind power turbines, with 700 globally. The company is currently building Nigeria's first wind farm based in Katsina state.

French President Francois Hollande, on a visit to Algeria, confirmed a French man had been kidnapped and two Nigerians killed during the attack.

"We will use all our means to find our national," he said at a press conference in Tlemcen.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who was travelling with Hollande in Algeria, told France 2 radio there had been no claims of responsibility for the kidnapping.   Continued...