By Rebecca Craig
The kidnap of seven foreign workers in northern Nigeria on 17 February 2013 is indicative of a significant shift in the dynamics of kidnapping risks in the country. Islamist terrorist groups operating in the north – most notably Boko Haram – have traditionally targeted local political and religious leaders, as well as members of the security forces, rather foreigners. However, the incident on 17 February, which terrorist group Jama’atu Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan (known as Ansaru) has claimed responsibility for, was apparently carried out in response to the actions of Western forces in Mali and Afghanistan. Although independent of Boko Haram, Ansaru is thought to have ties to the increasingly prominent extremist group. Furthermore, in a departure from Boko Haram, Ansaru appears to focus less on domestic political goals and more on global jihad, indicating the potential transnational threat posed by the group.
The seven foreign victims are thought to be nationals of Lebanon, Greece, Italy and the UK, and include two women. They are employed by Setraco, a Lebanese construction company, and were kidnapped from a compound near Jama’are, in Bauchi state, approximately 300km north of the capital Abuja. In the past, the risk to expatriate workers from kidnapping has predominantly been in the restive but oil-rich Niger Delta region. However, with stability in the Niger Delta improving – albeit from a low baseline – since an amnesty was introduced in 2009, and as Boko Haram has become increasing militant since 2009, the threat of violence and kidnappings has shifted from the Niger Delta to the Middle Belt and northern states. (more…)