27 Jun 2016

Kiwi injured in Nigeria kidnapping

8:04 pm on 27 June 2016

A New Zealander kidnapped in a deadly attack in Nigeria suffered non-life-threatening injuries, the Prime Minister says.

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The employee of Perth-based mining company Macmahon Holdings was one of seven men - including three Australians, a South African and two Nigerians - released by the kidnappers.

They were in a convoy on the outskirts of the city of Calabar in southern Nigeria when they were attacked by gunmen on Wednesday. A Nigerian driver was shot dead in the attack and a fourth Australian man escaped.

The company said five of the men were injured, two seriously, and were receiving medical attention.

John Key won't give any details of the injuries but said he was "not overly" shocked when he heard what they were.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been in touch with the New Zealander, but for privacy reasons, Mr Key wouldn't give too much detail.

"None of the injuries he's sustained are life threatening. Obviously we're delighted that he's been released, and the company's obviously been effective in seeing that release."

The New Zealander who was abducted lives in Australia, and has been named in the media as Jamal Khan.

Mr Key had said the motive for the kidnapping was not clear and had ruled out paying ransom.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said an official in Nigeria's capital Abuja was in touch with the New Zealander soon after his release. The ministry is also in close contact with the man's family.

Macmahon Holdings CEO Sybrandt van Dyk said all seven men were now in a "safe location", but five had been injured during their ordeal.

"Three of the men have wounds and two remain in a serious but stable condition," he said.

"Two of the men have rib injuries. They all are receiving specialist medical attention.

"Our priority now is to ensure that all of them are stabilised and ultimately given [clearance]... to travel."

He said the men had all spoken to their families overnight, which had been "a great relief to everyone".

"I would like to offer my condolence to the family of our local driver who was killed during the incident. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Mr van Dyk thanked those who had contributed to the group's release, highlighting the work of Nigerian authorities.

"Last night's outcome has been the result of a great team effort - in particular I would like to thank the Nigerian authorities, at both the local and federal level, who have provided us with professional support every step of the way, and assisted us with the safe recovery of our men," he said.

"I'm also grateful for the efforts of the Australian, New Zealand and South African authorities and to a team of specialist international security advisers who have worked with us to help secure this outcome."

Unclear if ransom was paid

Nigeria correspondent for UK newspaper The Times Jeremy Kelly told Morning Report it was still unclear whether a ransom was paid.

"However some local Nigerian media have reported that some money - the amount of which we don't know - did in fact change hands."

Mr Key said he didn't know if a ransom was paid to free the men. Nigerian police say it wasn't.

The company has not commented on a ransom, or how the release happened, Mr Kelly said.

Speaking on Sydney's 2GB Radio, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop would not speculate on whether any money changed hands, saying only the Australian government does not pay ransom.

"I believe that they are all well, they're undergoing health checks and it's obviously been a very traumatic time for them and no doubt they're returning home to their families."

Macmahon has a seven-year contract for quarrying operations in the Calabar region, about 600 kilometres south of the capital Abuja.

Kidnappings of foreigners are common in the region, which holds most of the OPEC member's crude oil and contributes about 70 percent of national income. Nigeria was Africa's top oil producer until a recent spate of attacks on oil facilities.

- ABC / Reuters / RNZ

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