The British Foreign Office warned its citizens on Wednesday (February 27) against traveling to several regions in northern Nigeria, following an increase in attacks blamed on Islamist militants and the kidnapping of several foreigners earlier this month.
Gunmen killed a security guard and kidnapped a Briton, an Italian, a Greek and four Lebanese workers after storming the compound of the Lebanese construction company, Setraco in Bauchi state on February 16.
The incident in Bauchi was the worst case of foreigners being kidnapped in the mostly Muslim north of Africa’s most populous country since an insurgency by Islamist militants intensified two years ago.
COMMENT: The full text of the Foreign Office warning can be found below:
Specifically, the British government advised its citizens against any travel to Bauchi state and Okene city in southern Kogi state, where militants last month attacked Nigerian troops who were bound for Mali to counter an Islamist insurgency. It also advised "against all but essential travel" to Kaduna, Kano, Jigawa and Katsina states.
Western governments are concerned the militants may link up with groups elsewhere in the region, including al-Qaeda’s North African wing, AQIM, particularly given France's military operation in neighboring Mali.
The Islamist group, Ansaru, claimed responsibility for the Setraco raid in Bauchi and the Okene attack.
Great Britain placed Ansaru on its official "terrorist group" list in November 2012, saying it was aligned with al-Qaeda and was behind the kidnapping of a Briton and an Italian killed last year during a failed rescue attempt.
The group’s full name is Jama’atu Ansarul Musilimina Fi Biladis Sudan, which roughly translates as "Vanguards for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa."
Ansaru is believed to be a splinter group from the better known Islamist sect, Boko Haram, which has killed hundreds of people over the last couple of years, principally in Nigeria, where its advocates hope to establish sharia law in the country.