The German Government appears willing to pay a ransom for its citizen, Edgar Fritz Raupach, who was kidnapped in Kano State four months ago by the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, SUNDAY PUNCH has authoritatively learnt.
This move by Germany is coming just as security reports indicate that Raupach might have been moved to a neighbouring African country to prevent Nigerian and German security agencies from rescuing him.
Recently, security sources told SUNDAY PUNCH correspondents that the terrorists moved Raupach to prevent a joint raid on their hideout by special forces.
Last month, an Italian and British hostage were murdered during a failed rescue mission by both British and Nigerian security forces. The hostages were killed by their captors before they could be rescued.
In a video obtained by a Mauritanian news agency in March, Raupach’s abductors threatened to kill him the same way the Briton and Italian were killed if there was an attempt to rescue him.
A few days after the threat was made, the State Security Service said it had arrested and detained five men, including a Mauritanian, believed to be linked to Al-Qaeda’s North African branch for the January kidnap of a German.
Four of the suspects were reportedly arrested in a raid on a Kano store owned by the Mauritanian while the fifth was held in a separate raid.
A security source who pleaded anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter told SUNDAY PUNCHthat the arrest of the suspects might have forced Raupach’s captors to relocate.
According to him, the cooperation Britain gave Nigeria during the rescue effort for the Briton and Italian had also made the abductors jittery as they feared that German and Nigerian security agencies might be working on a rescue operation.
“Right now, we don’t even know if they are in the country. That is what we are trying to find out. We highly suspect that they have been pressurised to shift location. Chad is a likely location; it is their strong base,” the source said.
When asked if the borders were being monitored or if the Nigerian government had alerted the Chadian authorities to this development, the source refused to comment on that.
“I have said enough. That man’s life is in danger and we can’t afford to endanger it more. Security strategies are not meant for the pages of newspapers,” he said.
When our correspondent called the Deputy Director, Public Relations of the SSS, Marilyn Ogar, on Thursday, she said, “Please I have no idea, thank you.”
Also the army’s Director of Public Relations, Brig. Gen Bola Koleoso, said the army was not involved in Raupach’s case.
“The army is not involved in the investigation. Please call the police.”
Efforts to reach the Force Public Relations Officer, Shola Amore, were not successful as he did not respond to calls and a text message sent to his mobile number.
SUNDAY PUNCH however learnt that Germany, which was providing support for Nigeria in its investigation, was not ready to give in to the demands of the AQIM.
The group said it was seeking the release of Umm Seifullah al-Ansari, or Filiz Gelowicz, a Turkish-born woman jailed a year ago in Germany for aiding terrorism.
Her husband, German national Fritz Gelowicz, a convert to Islam, was among four Islamists imprisoned in March 2010 for plotting to attack US facilities in Germany.
The AQIM claimed that Filiz Gelowicz was suffering “inhumane treatment” in a German prison.
In the video, Raupach had said his life was at risk if the woman was not freed.
However, an official of the German government told our correspondent last week that the country would not give in to blackmail.
According to the official, the most they could do is to pay a ransom to get their citizen back in sound health but the AQIM’s demand for a prisoner exchange is totally unacceptable.
The source, who pleaded not to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, said Germany was very willing to negotiate with the kidnappers.
“The German government always keeps very strict secrecy in cases of this nature. Of course, they are eager to negotiate with the kidnappers in such cases.
“From past incidents we have been successful in getting hostages released in most cases after negotiations. We are optimistic that this won’t be an exception.
“However, an exchange of the prisoner in Berlin with our citizen held in Nigeria is not a likely agreement. One was convicted for a crime by the courts after investigations that spanned a period. She had her lawyers defend her in court. The other is a victim of crime and has done nothing to deserve the treatment he is receiving.
“In fact, we are not sure if Gelowicz would like to be released through such a case of blackmail, because she publicly distanced herself from terrorist activities when she appeared in court.