British hostage likely to be dead in 'act of cold-blooded murder' by extremist group Ansaru in Nigeria says William Hague

A Nigerian Islamist militant group's claims to have killed seven foreign hostages were today described as credible by Western governments

William Hague has condemned “in the strongest terms” the apparent “cold-blooded murder” of a British hostage and six other foreign nationals at the hands of Islamist captors in Nigeria.

Western leaders denied that the men – who included a Greek, an Italian as well as four Lebanese – had died as a result of a failed rescue operation between the British and Nigerian military.

Although the death of the UK construction worker, named last night as Brendan Vaughan, is still unconfirmed, the Foreign Secretary said it was "most likely" he had perished alongside his fellow hostages.

Mr Hague said: "Responsibility for this tragic outcome rests squarely with the terrorists. I am grateful to the Nigerian Government for their unstinting help and co-operation.

"We are utterly determined to work with them to hold the perpetrators of this heinous act to account, and to combat the terrorism which so blights the lives of people in Northern Nigeria and in the wider region."

The men, who were all employees of the Lebanese construction company Setraco, were seized on 16 February in a violent assault on a camp 125 miles north of the city of Bauchi. One security guard was killed although Nigerian domestic staff were left unharmed whilst foreign workers were rounded up and driven away.

The extremist group Ansaru claimed responsibility for the murders and said the atrocity was sparked by reports of British warplanes in the region. Both Italian and Greek officials denied there had been a rescue attempt and said they had received no demands for the men's safe release.

The Ministry of Defence said the planes spotted were ferrying Nigerian and other African troops and equipment from the capital Abuja to Mali to assist French forces battling Islamic extremists there. The Foreign Office said: "There are a number of deployments as parts of various engagements in Africa which will include the movement of assets."

The terrorist group also claimed that it had decided to kill the hostages after Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan said his government would do anything it could to free the captives.

Ansaru – full name Jama'atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis-Sudan – is believed to be a splinter group of Boko Haram, the north's main terrorist force which is responsible for nearly 800 deaths in the past year.

Boko Haram's name translates as "Western Education is a Sin". Diplomats suspect the groups are loosely aligned to al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb which is seeking to take control of Mali.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Ashdown Group: Accountant - London - £48,000 - 12 month FTC

£40000 - £48000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: International Acc...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power