German hostage killed in Nigeria
A German man held hostage in northern Nigeria by a group linked to al-Qaeda was killed today during an attempt by Nigerian forces to rescue him, according to army and security sources.
Edgar Fritz Raupach was seized in the north's main city Kano in January.
A group claiming to be al-Qaeda's North African wing said in March it was holding him and demanded the release of a Muslim woman imprisoned in Germany in exchange for his freedom.
Kidnapping foreigners has become a common tactic of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which operates out of Nigeria's neighbour Niger, as well as in Mali, Algeria and Mauritania.
Officials believe it also has links with Nigerian militants.
A statement from Nigerian security forces in Kano said they had raided the hideout of some "terrorists' senior commanders" in Kano, apparently unaware they were holding the hostage.
"Upon search of the premises by security forces, we found the handcuffed, gruesomely murdered corpse of an expatriate, later identified as the German national, Mr Edgar," it said.
The incident bore an eerie resemblance to a botched rescue attempt by combined British-Nigerian forces in March to free a British and an Italian hostage held for almost a year. They were also killed by their captors during the raid. They had appeared blindfolded in a video that said they were being held by al-Qaeda.
The security forces' statement said the gunbattle with the insurgents today lasted for about 30 minutes.
"During the encounter five of the terrorists were killed," it said.
"The German was apparently killed by the terrorists on noticing the security forces."
Civil servant Ibrahim Mohammed said he witnessed the raid.
"I saw some corpse inside the military vehicle after the raid at Danbare Quarters close to the new site campus of Bayero University," he said by telephone from Kano, an ancient city once at the heart of a medieval Islamic caliphate through which the riches of trans-Saharan trade caravans passed.
"The military blocked all entrance to the area."
In an unrelated incident, an Italian engineer was abducted by a group of armed men in Kwara state in western Nigeria, the foreign ministry in Rome said.
Security sources said they expected that kidnapping to be the work of a criminal gang, not an Islamist militant group.
The military statement desisted from pinning the blame on homegrown Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram, as often happens.
Factions of the sect are believed to be behind kidnappings, but its main arm, which often claims attacks that have killed hundreds this year, has vehemently this.
Boko Haram has increasingly moved into Kano, a city of around 10 million people in north-central Nigeria, from its home base of Maiduguri in the northeast. A coordinated series of gun and bomb attacks killed 186 people in January.
Some Boko Haram members are known to have received weapons and training from AQIM, but security experts say the groups still have separate command structures.