Policemen walk outside their headquarter in Kano
A German kidnapped in Nigeria in January and purportedly held by Al-Qaeda's north African branch was killed by his captors on Thursday during a military raid to save him, officials said.
Meanwhile, news of a fresh kidnapping emerged in the country, with Italy's foreign ministry and Nigerian authorities confirming the abduction of an Italian engineer in Kwara State, located in central-west Nigeria.
The German victim, Edgar Raupach, was killed as Nigerian security forces conducted a raid early Thursday in the northern city of Kano, according to security sources and a special military force deployed in the city.
Residents reported hearing explosions and gunfire rock the neighbourhood of Danbare at around 6:00 am, lasting more than 30 minutes, and said it appeared several hundred soldiers were involved along with trucks and armoured vehicles.
The military force said in a statement that the raid was ordered based on intelligence that "senior commanders of the terrorist elements" were meeting.
"On sighting the security forces, the terrorist elements opened fire and threw improvised explosive devices on the security forces," it said.
"The security forces responded immediately, resulting in a gun duel that lasted for about 30 minutes. During the encounter, five of the terrorists were killed."
It added that security forces later searched the premises and "found the handcuffed, gruesomely murdered corpse of an expatriate, later identified as the German national ..."
Other security sources said on condition of anonymity that Raupach was shot and stabbed by his captors. They also said the raid was conducted to save him.
Contrary to earlier claims, the house was not destroyed following the raid.
An AFP correspondent visited the house on Thursday afternoon and reported seeing the ground splattered with blood and even human remains in one area.
Its walls were bullet-riddled and blackened from explosions, while its roof was destroyed.
The military said searches had also turned up two AK-47 rifles, a large quantity of ammunition, and 36 hand grenades and IEDs.
A spokeswoman for Germany's foreign ministry could not confirm the hostage's death, but said the embassy in Nigeria and a crisis team had been mobilised.
The engineer was kidnapped on the outskirts of Kano in January in the days after a series of bombings and shootings claimed by Islamist group Boko Haram, which killed at least 185 people in the city.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb said in March it was holding the German and that it wanted to swap him for a jailed Muslim woman, a private news agency in Mauritania said.
AQIM has not been known to operate directly in Nigeria, though Boko Haram and other extremists in the country are believed to have links to the group.
In late March, Nigerian authorities said they had detained five men, including a Mauritanian, believed to be linked to Al-Qaeda's north African branch, over the kidnapping of the German.
The hostage's death marked the second such incident in recent months in Africa's most populous nation and largest oil producer.
In March, security forces faced criticism after a failed bid to rescue an Italian and a British hostage.
Their captors killed them before Nigerian forces could rescue them in a joint operation with British security forces.
Nigerian officials have blamed the kidnap of the British and the Italian on a faction of Boko Haram, which had not been previously known to carry out abductions. A purported Boko Haram spokesman denied any involvement.
One security source however suggested that the operation had been masterminded by a man named Abu Mohammad, said to have been affiliated with Al Qaeda's north African branch and Boko Haram.
Nigerian authorities have said Abu Mohammed died in custody of gunshot wounds sustained during his arrest.
Security sources said information obtained following recent arrests made in Kano as well as the northern city of Kaduna led to Thursday's raid.
German construction company Bilfinger Berger has earlier said the victim was one of their employees. Police in Kano had said the German man was attached to Nigerian construction firm Dantata and Sawoe.
In the fresh kidnapping that emerged Thursday, Italian building and civil engineering firm Borini Prono confirmed one of their employees had been abducted on Monday.
Unidentified armed men were said to have snatched the engineer as he inspected road-draining works in the city of Ilorin.