KANO, Nigeria — A German engineer kidnapped in the northern Nigeria about five months ago has been killed during a failed rescue attempt, an official said Thursday.
Regional police chief Philemon Ibrahim Leha said the operation to free Edgar Fritz Raupach happened in the early hours of Thursday in the city of Kano, but could not immediately give further detail.
The German embassy in Nigeria could not immediately be reached for comment.
Gunmen kidnapped Raupach in January from Kano, Nigeria’s second-largest city, where he worked for Dantata & Sawoe Construction Co. Ltd. Police said his abductors had taken him from a construction site.
Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb had released a statement in March claiming they had Raupach, as well as a video showing him disheveled and asking in German and English for his country to help win his freedom. The group known by the acronym AQIM demanded that German officials release Filiz Gelowicz, a German woman convicted last year of supporting a foreign terrorist network. Gelowicz’s husband was among a group convicted of plotting unsuccessfully to attack U.S. soldiers and citizens in Germany.
The kidnapping of the German represented the first concrete violence in Nigeria directly tied to AQIM, which grew out of organizations fighting the Algerian government in the 1990s. Nigeria’s security agencies in the past have said they arrested adherents of the group.
However, the group’s real impact began to be felt with the rise of Boko Haram, a locally focused Islamist sect that wants to implement strict Shariah law across Nigeria, a multiethnic nation of more than 160 million people. The sect began gun attacks from the backs of motorcycles, but, last year, it started escalating its attacks with a string of suicide bombings targeting churches, government buildings, and even the United Nations headquarters in the capital Abuja.
Some analysts had also said that it was unlikely that AQIM had kidnapped Raupach themselves.
AQIM has bought hostages before from other groups in the past. It has made an estimated $130 million by kidnapping at least 50 Westerners and holding them for ransom. And north Nigeria remains home to a number of expatriate workers, including Westerners, Indians, Chinese and Lebanese — meaning it could be fertile ground if the group wants to expand its ransom operations into the region.
The failed rescue attempt comes months after two other foreign engineers from Italy and the U.K. were executed by their captors moments before a commando raid by British and Nigerian forces.