(BAUCHI, Nigeria) — The Nigerian Islamist militant group Ansaru said in an online statement posted on Saturday that it had killed seven foreign hostages it seized in January.
According to BBC News, Western governments believe the claim is credible.
The hostages were working on a construction site in the northern state of Bauchi when Ansaru captured them. They hailed from Italy, Britain, Greece and Lebanon.
Ansaru said the hostages had been killed in response to a British and Nigerian rescue attempt, though the Italian government denies that there was any attempt to rescue hostages conducted by any of the concerned governments.
The Italian government added that the group’s actions “can have no explanation other than blind and barbaric violence.”
Ansaru, whose full name translates as “Vanguards for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa,” has proven itself to be quite a threat even though it is a relatively young organization, having just been founded in January of 2012.
Ansaru is suspected of being an offshoot of the Boko Haram network, and is listed by the UK government as a “terrorist organisation” aligned with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, according to BBC News.
Ansaru said it had carried out the raid in January as revenge for what it called atrocities by European nations against Islam.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Greg Botelho, CNN Newswire
Michael Pearson and Steve Almasy, CNN