LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Gunmen ambushed two Americans and two Canadians traveling through Nigeria's northern Kaduna state, kidnapping them and killing two policemen, a state police spokesman said Wednesday.
The foreigners were heading south from Kafanchan in Kaduna state to the capital, Abuja, on Tuesday night when they were ambushed around Kagarko, Kaduna state police spokesman Mukhtar Aliyu said.
Aliyu reported earlier in the day that only two people were kidnapped, one American and one Canadian. He revised the numbers based on updated information.
"The two police escorts attached to them engaged the kidnappers in a fierce gun battle, which resulted in the unfortunate death of the two police officers," he said.
The kidnapped visitors are investors who were setting up solar stations in villages around Kafanchan, according to Aliyu.
Security officers, including an anti-kidnapping unit, have been sent to the area to try to rescue the North Americans and to apprehend their abductors, he said.
Global Affairs Canada spokesman John Babcock said Canadian officials were aware that two citizens were reportedly abducted. The government would not provide details due to privacy issues, he said.
"Consular officials in Nigeria are in contact with local authorities to gather additional information," Babcock said.
The U.S. State Department said before the number of people believed kidnapped was raised that it knew of reports involving an American citizen.
"The safety and protection of U.S. citizens overseas are among our top priorities," a State Department statement said. It said no further details were available.
Kidnappings for ransom are common in Nigeria, especially on the Kaduna to Abuja highway. Two German archaeologists were seized at gunpoint last year less than 100 kilometers (60 miles) northeast of Abuja and later freed unharmed. Sierra Leone's deputy high commissioner was taken at gunpoint on the highway in 2016 and held for five days before he was let go.
Victims typically are released unharmed after ransom is paid, though security forces have rescued a few high-profile abductees. A number of bandits, including herdsmen, have been arrested.
Abdul'Aziz reported from Yola, Nigeria. Associated Press writers Carley Petesch in Dakar, Senegal; Rob Gillies in Toronto, Canada and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed.