Voice of America

The alleged ringleader of a gang that kidnapped four British missionaries in southern Nigeria last year has been killed in a shootout with soldiers, the military said on Friday.

One of the Britons, Ian Squire, was killed while the three other hostages were released in November. They were seized a month earlier as they provided free healthcare in villages in Delta state.

Peregbakumo Oyawerikumo – also known as Karowei and who was described by the military as the kidnap “kingpin” – was arrested during a week-long clearance operation on Thursday.

He was detained in connection with the kidnapping and “unprovoked attacks on military locations” in the region that recently led to the deaths of four soldiers, said army spokesperson Major Ibrahim Abdullahi in a statement.

“However in a twist of events, Karowei’s recalcitrant group laid an ambush and attacked task force troops in a gun battle at his camp deep in the forest.

“The superior firepower, resilience and gallantry of (our) own troops countered this snap attack which resulted in the death of several of Karowei’s henchmen and the kingpin.”

Kidnapping for ransom is rife in southern Nigeria, where high-profile individuals and their families are a frequent target for criminal gangs.

Victims are usually released after a few days once payment is made.

A number of arrests had previously been made in connection with the abduction of the Britons, who are thought to have been held at camps in the creeks and swamps of the delta.

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