Suspected militants on Wednesday reportedly kidnapped at least five expatriates and two Nigerians at the Idundu area of the Calabar-Oban Road, Cross River state.
The foreigners and their Nigerian colleagues, working for MacMahon Construction Company located at the Mfamosing Plant of the United Cement Company of Nigeria Limited in Akamkpa Local Government Area of the state, were on their way to work at about 6am.
The Punch gathered that the workers were accosted by the gunmen before the Idundu Bridge, although, they were escorted by a security pickup that reportedly had four armed policemen who could do nothing while the attack lasted.
Those kidnapped included three Australians: Mark Gabberdy, Peter Zoutenbier and Jack Countentz; a South African, Wayne Smith, Jamal Khan from New Zealand, and two Nigerians: Austin Enok and one Howel (the driver).
Meanwhile, another Australian identified as Tim Croot, and the driver of one of the vehicles, identified only as Henshaw, were said to have escaped, while another driver, Matthew, was killed in the process.
Speaking on the incident, an eyewitness, Akan Akpan, said, “I was coming back from the farm this morning when the incident occurred. The kidnappers came down from the bridge, shot the driver of the vehicle and took the victims away through the river.
“The vehicles conveying the expatriates and the two Nigerians were abandoned by the roadside with the dead body of the driver.
“From all indications, it appeared like the expatriates were going to work at the Lafarge Holcim plant in Mfamosing,” Akpan added.
The state Commissioner of Police, CP, Mr. Jimoh Ozi-Obeh, confirmed the incident, saying the police were working with the Nigerian Navy to ensure that the victims were released safely.
The CP said, “The police are aware of the matter. Five persons were kidnapped. They include three Australians, one South African, two Nigerians and one other.
“The driver of the vehicle was shot dead. The police will ensure that the victims are released unharmed,” the CP assured.
A statement issued by the Communications Officer of Lafarge, Viola Graham-Douglas, confirmed that the kidnapped expatriates were MacMahon contractors.
Graham-Douglas in a terse statement said, “One of our contractors, MacMahon, has informed us that a security incident has occurred on the road from Calabar involving some of their employees.
“MacMahon is working with the security agencies to resolve the situation,” he added.