Tributes paid to British hostage believed killed in Nigeria

Brendan Vaughan, who is thought to have been killed by Nigerian terrorists.

Tributes have been paid to a British construction worker feared to have been killed by Islamist hostage-takers in Nigeria on Saturday.

The foreign secretary, William Hague, said on Sunday that Brendan Vaughan was "likely to have been killed at the hands of his captors" along with six other foreign workers in "an unforgivable act of pure cold-blooded murder".

The al-Qaida-affiliated Nigerian Islamist group Ansaru has posted a video online showing what appears to be several dead bodies but a police spokesman in Nigeria said they could still not confirm whether the hostages were dead.

Vaughan, who was working for a Lebanese construction company, Setraco, was abducted with colleagues from Greece, Italy and Lebanon on 16 February.

No further details about Vaughan have been released but the construction worker, originally from Leeds, appears to have started a new life in Thailand with girlfriend Orasa Arpornkaew. Tributes were posted to him on Facebook, including from Arpornkaew, who wrote: "Your always in my heart." A friend, Dom Cooney, posted: "cant believe it. he was like an ox."

Vaughan's Facebook page includes details of where he was working in Nigeria and photos of armed protection guards at his compound.

Link to video: Hague condemns murder of British hostage in Nigeria
Four Lebanese construction workers were also killed as well as an Italian and a Greek. An intelligence source in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, named the Italian as Silvano Trevisan, adding that he had been suffering from hypertension and heart problems.

A silent video posted on the internet by Ansaru dated 9 March shows a gunman standing next to a pile of bodies, followed by a series of closeups of their faces lit up by a torch. It is entitled in Arabic "The Killing of the seven Christian hostages in Nigeria". A caption underneath says in Arabic and in English: "In the name of Allah Most Beneficent Most Merciful". The video matched still images released earlier by Ansaru when it claimed the killings.

Official silence shrouds the affair, with no statement released by the Nigerian government two days after Ansaru said it had killed the workers.

"Up to this moment in time, I have nothing to confirm that the hostages have been killed. Our investigations are still ongoing to ascertain whether they are alive or not," said Hassan Mohammed, police spokesman for Bauchi state.

Contradicting Ansaru claims, government sources said no rescue raid was under way or in the pipeline with any other governments.

"The [Nigerian] government had zero indication of where the hostages were being held. We would have mounted a raid if we had known," a senior presidential aide told the Guardian, adding that the speed at which events had unfolded over the last few days "caught [the government] on the back foot".

Two security sources told the Guardian the hostages may have been killed when their captors panicked, mistakenly believing British intelligence operatives based in Nigeria had located them.

Ansaru had not made any demands since seizing the seven men, the sources said. "They didn't communicate anything. It didn't make sense to kill their hostages and lose their bargaining chip, so to speak," one secret service source said.

A Nigerian secret service official told the Guardian that three of the hostages were believed to have been seriously ill during their captivity. Vaughan was a diabetic, while Trevisan suffered from hypertension. Attempts had been made to pass medication to them through members of Ansaru but had been unsuccessful, the source added.

Ansaru came into the spotlight when it kidnapped and murdered British construction worker Christopher McManus, 28, and his Italian colleague Franco Lamolinara, 47, in February 2012.

Unlike Boko Haram, its violent campaign appears to be aimed squarely at raising its profile through international targets. Ansaru also claimed responsibility for an attack that killed two and wounded eight Mali-bound soldiers in the central Nigerian state of Kogi in January this year.



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