French national kidnapped in northern Nigeria

PARIS/ABUJA Thu Dec 20, 2012 6:50am EST

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PARIS/ABUJA (Reuters) - A French national working for Paris-listed renewable energy firm Vergnet has been kidnapped in northern Nigeria, a company executive and police official said on Thursday.

Radical Islamist groups such as Boko Haram hold increasing sway in the region and in recent months have become the biggest security threat to Africa's largest oil exporter.

Asked by telephone if a French worker for the company had been kidnapped in the west African country, a Paris-based executive for the firm said: "Yes".

Separately, local Nigerian police spokesman Aminu Sadiq Abubakar said a French national was kidnapped in Katsina state when around 30 gunmen attacked a residence used by the company.

A policeman and a security guard protecting the French national were killed, the police spokesman said. A police station nearby was also bombed and some inmates were freed from detention.

Vergnet is a French firm specialized in wind power turbines, with 700 globally.

The French Foreign Ministry said it could not immediately confirm the kidnapping and was making checks.

A Briton and Italian were kidnapped in May last year in Nigeria's northwestern region and their captors killed them during a British-Nigerian rescue mission in March this year.

Boko Haram has killed hundreds this year in its insurgency, focusing its attacks on security and religious targets in an effort to carve out an Islamic state in a country of 160 million split roughly equally between Christians and Muslims.

Seven French nationals are already in the hands of kidnappers in the Sahara, and one is held in Somalia.

(Reporting By John Irish in Paris, Joe Brock in Abuja and Isaac Abrak in Kano; editing by Daniel Flynn and Mark John)

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