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 Maurizio Pallu was taken with four others after arriving Thursday in southern Benin City.
Avvenire said the 63-year-old priest had worked as a lay missionary before entering a seminary in Rome in 1988. He was later a parish priest in the Dutch city of Haarlem before being assigned to the archdiocese in the Nigerian capital of Abuja.
The archdiocese of Rome expressed “apprehension and worry” for the priest’s safety and said the church “was united in prayer” for his liberation.
Kidnappings for ransom are common in Nigeria, with ordinary residents and even schoolchildren targeted as well as foreigners. Victims usually are freed unharmed after a ransom is paid, though security forces have rescued a few high-profile abductees.
Other foreigners kidnapped in the West African nation this year include two German archaeologists, who were freed by their captors, and two Turkish nationals, whom local police said they rescued. The two were employees of a construction company.