ITALY (Globe Afrique) — Italian news reports say an Italian priest has been kidnapped at gunpoint in Nigeria, where he has been working for three years.
The news agency ANSA and Avvenire, the website of the Italian Catholic Bishops Conference, reported Friday that Father Maurizio Pallu was taken with four others after arriving Thursday in southern Benin City.
Avvenire said the 63-year-old priest was a lay missionary before entering a seminary in Rome in 1988. He later served as a parish priest in the Dutch city of Haarlem before being assigned to the archdiocese in the Nigerian capital of Abuja.
Rome expressed “apprehension and worry” for the priest’s safety and said the church “was united in prayer” for his liberation, according to a release.
International security analysts say kidnappings for ransom are common activities in Nigeria, with foreigners as well as ordinary residents and even schoolchildren targeted.
Kidnapped victims are frequently freed uninjured after a ransom is paid, though security forces have rescued a few high-profile abductees.
Other immigrants kidnapped in the West African nation this year include two German archaeologists, who were freed by their abductors, and two Turkish nationals, whom local police said they liberated. The two were workers of a construction company.