ABUJA - A German man held hostage in northern Nigeria by a group linked to al Qaeda was killed on Thursday during an attempt by Nigerian forces to rescue him, according to army and security sources.
Edgar Fritz Raupach was seized in the north's main city Kano in January. A group claiming to be al Qaeda's North African wing said in March it was holding him and demanded the release of a Muslim woman imprisoned in Germany in exchange for his freedom.
Kidnapping foreigners has become a common tactic of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which operates out of Nigeria's neighbour Niger, as well as in Mali, Algeria and Mauritania. Officials believe it also has links with Nigerian militants.
A statement from Nigerian security forces in Kano said they had raided the hideout of some "terrorists' senior commanders" in Kano, apparently unaware they were holding the hostage.
"Upon search of the premises by security forces, we found the handcuffed, gruesomely murdered corpse of an expatriate, later identified as the German national, Mr Edgar," it said.
The incident bore an eerie resemblance to a botched rescue attempt by combined British-Nigerian forces in March to free a British and an Italian hostage held for almost a year. They were also killed by their captors during the raid.
They had appeared blindfolded in a video that said they were being held by al Qaeda.
The security forces' statement said the gun battle with the insurgents on Thursday lasted for about 30 minutes.
"During the encounter five of the terrorists were killed," it said. "The German was apparently killed by the terrorists on noticing the security forces."