Nigeria: 2 Americans, 2 Canadians Freed by Abductors

Nigerian police in Borno state pose prior to a patrol in Maiduguri on June 5, 2013 (AFP Photo/Quentin Leboucher)
Nigerian police in Borno state pose prior to a patrol in Maiduguri on June 5, 2013 (AFP Photo/Quentin Leboucher)
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Nigeria: 2 Americans, 2 Canadians Freed by Abductors

Nigerian police in Borno state pose prior to a patrol in Maiduguri on June 5, 2013 (AFP Photo/Quentin Leboucher)
Nigerian police in Borno state pose prior to a patrol in Maiduguri on June 5, 2013 (AFP Photo/Quentin Leboucher)

Two Americans and two Canadians have been freed after being kidnapped in the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna, a police spokesman said on Saturday.

The Westerners were ambushed by unknown gunmen on Wednesday while traveling from the town of Kafanchan in Kaduna state to the capital, Abuja. Kafanchan is more than three hours' drive northeast of Abuja.

Mukhtar Aliyu, a spokesman for Kaduna state police, said they were freed on Friday.

"It was the efforts of the police, through the directive of the inspector general of police, that yielded their release last night," he said. Aliyu said no ransom was paid.

The road connecting Abuja and Kaduna has long been targeted by abductors.

Kidnapping, usually for ransom, is common in parts of Nigeria, though abductors usually target other Nigerians.

However, the kidnapping of foreigners is not uncommon.

Police told AFP on Friday that five oil workers have been kidnapped in Nigeria's restive southern Niger Delta region.

Suspected militants seized the workers on Wednesday near the Ajoki community, which borders Edo and Delta States, said Delta State police spokesperson Andrew Aniamaka.

The workers are employees of Sahara Energy Oil Company, a Nigerian energy firm.

The incident happened a few hours after the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), a rebel group known to attack oil pipelines, issued a statement warning the government it was ending a 2017 ceasefire agreement.



Israeli Polls Show Netanyahu Party Narrowing Gap Behind Gantz 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz attends a news conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 28, 2023. (AP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz attends a news conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 28, 2023. (AP)
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Israeli Polls Show Netanyahu Party Narrowing Gap Behind Gantz 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz attends a news conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 28, 2023. (AP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz attends a news conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 28, 2023. (AP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right wing Likud party has reduced the gap behind the centrist party of former minister Benny Gantz, who quit the wartime unity government on Sunday, two polls showed on Friday.

The polls, for the left wing Ma'ariv daily and the right-wing Israel Hayom newspaper, showed Likud winning 21 seats behind the National Unity Party on 24. The Ma'ariv poll last week showed Gantz's party on 27 seats, while at the start of the year, it was regularly polling in the high 30s.

The Ma'ariv poll shows the current ruling coalition winning 52 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, against 58 for the main opposition parties, with the balance of 10 seats held by the United Arab List and the left-wing Hadash-Ta'al alliance.

The Israel Hayom poll put the coalition on 50 seats against 61 for the opposition parties and 9 for the UAL and Hadash-Ta'al.

Both polls showed a majority of voters would prefer Gantz as prime minister in a head-to-head choice with Netanyahu. However, the Israel Hayom poll showed that if former prime minister Naftali Bennett were to join forces with Avigdor Liberman and Gideon Saar, two other center right politicians from outside the Likud camp, their alliance could beat both Likud and Gantz's National Unity Party.

Gantz, a former army general and defense minister in the last government, joined Netanyahu's coalition last year as a gesture of national unity following the devastating attack by Hamas on Oct 7.

However, he clashed repeatedly with other ministers and quit the government after demanding Netanyahu articulate a clear strategic plan for the war in Gaza, now in its ninth month.

Netanyahu, who was widely blamed for the security failures that allowed the Oct. 7 attack to take place, has refused to call early elections and would not normally face voters until 2026 if his coalition with a clutch of religious and right-wing pro-settler parties holds.