The latest ambush by unknown kidnappers in south-east Calabar, had missed one of the Australian, Tim Croot as he allegedly used army reserve training experience to elude the gunmen.
Report from the West Australian said 24-year old Croot, who is a Perth mechanic and his Australian colleagues; Peter Zoutenbier, Jack Couranz and Mark Gabbedy were in four-car convoy on their way to work outside the city of Calabar, capital city of Cross River State, in the Akpabuyo district around 5:30am Wednesday, June 22, when gunmen fired gunshots and cornered the vehicles.
New Zealander Jamal Khan, South African Wayne Smith and Nigerian Austin Adise are also missing.
While the other three were hustled away by the kidnappers, Mr. Croot crouched underneath a car and the attackers were unable to spot him in the dim light of the early morning. He later escaped with a Nigerian driver and is being assisted by consular officials in Nigeria.
The Army Reservist was reportedly very fit, had been taught situational awareness and had recently begun learning martial arts. Croot also made a phone call to his mother.
The men work for West Australian mining company Macmahon Holdings which is contracted to cement company Lafarge Africa.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed to AAP three Australian citizens and one resident were among the group kidnapped.
Jack Couranz is believed to be a reliability engineer, Mark Gabbedy is a project manager at Macmahon, Tim Croot is a heavy diesel mechanic and Peter Zoutenbier is a senior maintenance planner.
Report said they were kidnapped near a bridge crossing, being escorted by a security truck with four armed policemen when they were attacked, with the police allegedly unable to do anything while the attack lasted.
An eyewitness said the militants were battle ready and heavily armed to demolish any obstacle adding;
“When the lead driver approached the militants, because he was on speed, they taught he wont stop so they opened fire on his vehicle and killed him before they took the white men away. The security men attached to them (expatriates) had to scampered for safety.”
The kidnappers fled with the hostages in a waiting boat hidden under the nearby Idundu Bridge. The report says:
“They also took one of the drivers … then one supervisor and three white guys and it was like they had a boat by the beach already waiting for them.”
Spokeswoman for Cross River state Police, Irene Ugbo, said the kidnappers had not contacted police. Meanwhile, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop said the Australian Government was working of firming up details of the ambush.
“The Australian Government is in close contact with the Nigerian Government, which is taking the matter extremely seriously. We just want to do everything we can to get these guys home safe to all their families.”
The victims families have expressed shock over the incident and are concerned for the safety of their loved ones especially when the kidnappers had already killed a driver.
Lafarge Africa said it had been informed of the incident by Australian contractor Macmahon Holdings. Viola Graham-Douglas, a spokeswoman for Lafarge Africa assured that Macmahon is working with the security agencies to resolve this situation.