About a hundred troops, military trucks and a helicopter were deployed in a failed hostage rescue bid in Nigeria in which an Italian and Briton were killed, witnesses said yesterday.
As Italy seethed over how it had been kept in the dark about Thursday’s deadly raid in the northwestern city of Sokoto, witnesses said the captors and the security forces waged a gunbattle lasting seven hours.
At least two hostage-takers were killed in the operation, along with British national Chris McManus and Italy’s Franco Lamolinara, they added.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan blamed the deaths of the hostages on members of the Islamist group Boko Haram, which has waged a violence campaign mainly in the northeast of the country. He said the killers had been arrested.
Meanwhile, the British government said yesterday it had informed Italy of an attempt to rescue the two hostages as the doomed bid was getting under way, but did not have the time to forewarn Rome.
“We contacted the Italians yesterday [Thursday] as the operation was getting under way, but this was a very fast-moving situation,” British Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman said in London.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti convened a security committee meeting yesterday over Britain’s failure to consult Rome before approving the rescue bid.
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano was quoted as saying that the failure to inform Rome about the bid was “inexplicable.”
While officials gave few details about the operation or those involved, newspapers in London said that it had included members of the British elite forces Special Boat Service (SBS) who had been in Nigeria for a fortnight.
A resident who lives directly opposite the house where the two Europeans were killed said at least 100 soldiers were involved in the operation.
They came in three trucks and blocked the entrance to the house.
The kidnappers apparently tried to flee the troops by scaling a wall into a next-door house which was still under construction, before then engaging them in an intense gunbattle, the witness said on condition of anonymity.
“After the shootout had been going on for about seven hours, the soldiers gained access into the house. Initially they brought out two dead bodies I believe to be white men, followed by two bodies of dark-skinned people I believe to be among the gunmen,” the witness said.
The witness reported seeing three men taken out of the house in handcuffs.
British and Nigerian authorities had been concerned from the start that the kidnappers were Islamist extremists, as they had ignored a large amount of cash that the men had stored in the apartment where they were abducted, according to British media.
Cameron said the bid to rescue the men had been authorized after “a window of opportunity arose to secure their release.”
British media said that Nigerian intelligence officials had tracked the group to Sokoto.
GCHQ, Britain’s intelligence listening center, identified and monitored the telephone calls made and received by the gang.
Malaysian authorities have advised women to wear makeup, not to nag their husbands and speak with a cartoon character’s soothing voice during the virus lockdown, sparking a flood of mockery online. Like many countries, Malaysia has ordered all citizens to stay at home to stem the spread of COVID-19, which, as of yesterday, had killed at least 39,070 people globally. In a series of online posters with the hashtag #WomenPreventCOVID19, the Malaysian Ministry of Women and Family Development issued advice on how to avoid domestic conflicts during the partial lockdown, which began on March 18. One of the campaign posters depicted
KEEP AWAY: People should wear a mask in places where they cannot follow social distancing rules, the CECC said, adding that it would publish detailed guidelines today The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday announced 16 new cases of COVID-19, including two domestic cases, as it urged people to practice social distancing in public spaces by keeping a distance of at least 1m when outdoors and 1.5m indoors. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that seven of the new cases tested positive upon their arrival at the airport, four were under home quarantine, one was under home isolation and two were under self-health management, while the two domestic cases sought treatment on their own. The domestic cases are a man in his
Taiwan will negotiate with the WHO about its participation without Beijing’s help and intervention as more countries, including Australia and Japan, are partnering with Taiwan to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a telephonic roundtable with reporters on Monday also supported Taiwan’s role in the WHO, saying the US Department of State would do its best to assist Taiwan’s “appropriate role” in the world’s highest health policy setting body, Voice of America reported. In a Japan Business Press report published on Sunday, Chinese Ambassador to Japan Kong Xuanyou (孔鉉佑) said
Two US senators were critical of the WHO after a senior WHO official appeared to hang up on a Hong Kong reporter who asked about Taiwan’s membership status in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. During a video interview with Radio Television Hong Kong’s Yvonne Tong (唐若韞) on Saturday, WHO Assistant Director-General Bruce Aylward first claimed not to have heard her question on whether the WHO would consider giving Taiwan membership. When Tong repeated the question, he asked her to “move on to another one.” The video then showed the line disconnecting after Tong said she would like to hear more about Taiwan.