MAKURDI, Nigeria (AP) — Police in Nigeria said gunmen abducted three Chinese nationals working in the country’s north central region, the latest incident in a cycle of violence in Africa’s most populous nation.
The gunmen also killed two Nigerians who were working with the expatriates Tuesday at a hydroelectric power plant under construction in Niger state, which neighbors Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.
The workers were installing a transmission line tower at the plant in the village of Gussase when the attackers arrived and opened fire, police spokesman Wasiu Abiodun said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Police tactical team attached to the facility engaged the hoodlums in a gun duel while four of the expatriates were rescued,” Abiodun said, adding that with one of the Chinese workers and two local workers sustained bullet injuries.
He said an “aggressive manhunt” was underway to rescue the three hostages.
Chinese Ambassador Cui Jianchun met with Nigerian Chief of Police Usman Alkali Baba on Thursday and urged him to severely crack down on crimes involving Chinese citizens with a “zero tolerance” attitude, according to a statement on the Chinese Embassy’s website.
“China is willing to work with Nigeria to continuously deepen cooperation in law enforcement and security between the two countries,” Cui said. No other details were given.
Criminal gangs have abducted scores of foreigners in Nigeria, though security forces reduced the frequency of the attacks over the years.
Workers in the southern oil-rich Niger Delta region are most often targeted. Ransoms for hostages sometimes run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In November, Chinese authorities issued a travel advisory warning their citizens and companies against travel to “high-risk” areas in Nigeria and other parts of Africa.
The state of security across Nigeria has deteriorated under President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired military general who served as Nigeria’s military head of state during 1983-1985 before returning to power in 2015.