Security forces and militias apparently succeeded in temporarily freeing the German national seized by masked gunmen early on Wednesday morning (16.07.2014) in the town of Gombi in the northeastern state of Adamawa.
The security forces had been on the way back to Gombi with the man, according to an eyewitness whose village they passed. The eyewitness told DW what happened next. “The kidnappers got reinforcements, they overpowered the people who had freed the German and recaptured him.”
The kidnappers and their victim then disappeared in the direction of the neighboring state of Borno. Residents in the region of Askira reported seeing the German and his captors a while later. “They shot in the air and ordered people not to run away,” another eyewitness said. The kidnappers reportedly seized a second hostage and left the village in the direction of Sambisa Forest.
The kidnapped German is the director of a technical training center in Gombi. Four unknown assailants had waited outside his house on Wednesday and then abducted him on their motorbikes.
By Thursday nothing was known about the identity of the kidnappers. However the route they took indicates they could be members of the Islamist Boko Haram militia. Boko Haram has its power base in Borno state. On Wednesday, suspected Boko Haram fighters reportedly attacked a village in the Askira region. Gombi, the town where the German was kidnapped, is only a few kilometers (miles) from Chibok in Borno state where Boko Haram abducted more than 200 schoolgirls in April.
“Kidnappings were never a problem in the past in Adamawa,” said Muntaqa Ahiwa, a journalist who previously reported for DW’s Hausa radio program from Adamawa and now works at the DW broadcasting center in Bonn, Germany.
In Nigeria, there are other theories about what could be behind the kidnapping. One day earlier, the governor of Adamawa, Murtala Nyako, was removed from office following corruption allegations. Nyako, who has strong ties with Germany, had switched his allegiance from the government’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) a few months ago. Against this background, Ahiwa says, many Nigerians believe political intrigues are behind the kidnapping.
The German teacher works for the Technical Training Center (TTC) in Gombi, a training initiative launched by the regional government to combat massive youth unemployment. Every year hundreds of youngsters receive practical training, for example as carpenters or car mechanics, at several such centers throughout the state. The centers are unique in that they pay students who attend regularly. As a result, there are thousands of applications every year. Several centers have German directors.
After the German was seized for a second time, members of a local civil defense group apparently wanted to set off in pursuit. They were prevented from doing so by local police who intend to investigate the matter, the DW correspondent reports. Civil defence members had chased the kidnappers after the initial seizure. Two were shot dead and the rest abandoned the chase and returned with their bodies.
A spokesperson at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin confirmed to DW on Wednesday that they were aware of the kidnapping. However, as is usual in such cases, it was not possible to provide any further information, the spokesperson said.