Ian Squire, a 56-year-old British missionary, who was kidnapped with three others on the 13 October in the Nigeria’s Niger Delta region by an armed group, has died in captivity. Three other missionaries have gained their freedom.
The circumstances behind hisdeath is not clear at this point. A Telegraph report said the British Foreign Office declined any comments on Monday evening on the circumstances of Mr Squire’s death.
Sources in Nigeria, however said Ian probably died as a result of illness while in captivity in the disease infested swamps of the Niger Delta region. “What we are hearing is that the kidnappers dropped three surviving missionaries off at a village in Bayelsa State (in the Delta region) after one of them had already died,” according to the source.
“The others were getting too weak to remain in captivity, causing the kidnappers to panic and drop them off with no ransom paid. The villagers then alerted the local police,” said the Nigerian source.
The three other missionaries, who have been working in the region for the past 14 years were abducted with Ian Squire and freed after a three-week ordeal in Nigeria Niger Delta. They are David Donovan, a General Practitioner from Cambridge, and also founder of the charity organization, New Foundations; Mr. Donovan’s wife, Shirley; and Alanna Carson, an optometrist from Leven, Fife. They have all returned to Britain.
Ian Squire was an optician and a Christian missionary with his own charity, Mission for Vision. He had been travelling to Nigeria since 2013 in a joint effort with New Foundations. The charity had also some work in other African countries like Burundi, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Ian joined the New Foundations Optical Centre in 2016, where he was training local people to carry out sight tests and dispense prescription spectacles in Enekorogha. Ian also developed a solar-powered, portable lens-grinding machine for the clinic in a community which was without electricity.
Though the identity of the abductors is not clear, Zanna Ibrahim, Delta’s Police Commissioner, had suggested that a local militant group called the Karowei, were behind the kidnapping, possibly in response to “Operation Crocodile Smile”, a recent controversial military operation by the Nigerian army in the region to curb the protracted cases of kidnapping.
Monica Chard, a friend of Ian, said, “He was a lovely, quiet man who everyone knew and loved as the village optician.
“He went out to Africa every year with the charity and his wife was also involved. He just wanted to help people see who otherwise would not have had any help.
“His widow must be devastated, especially after three weeks of hell waiting to find out if he was alive.
“The people who kidnapped him are despicable. There are too many awful people in the world and he was definitely one of the good ones.” Monica said.
The UK Foreign Office’s issued a statement saying, “We are supporting the families of four British people who were
abducted on 13 October in Nigeria, one of whom was tragically killed.
“This has clearly been a traumatic time for all concerned, and our staff will continue to do all we can to support the families. We are grateful to the Nigerian authorities, and are unable to comment given the ongoing nature of their investigations.”
The families of the abducted Christian missionaries, in a statement, said, “Alanna, Ian, David and Shirley were kidnapped in Nigeria some three weeks ago. We are grateful for the support received by the British high commission and help from the Nigerian authorities in negotiating their release,” the families said. “We are delighted and relieved that Alanna, David and Shirley have returned home safely. Our thoughts are now with the family and friends of Ian as we come to terms with his sad death.”
Chief Theo Fakama, from the local Enukorowa community, told the Agence France-Presse news agency that villagers were saddened by the kidnapping because the victims had ‘brought succour to residents of the community for the past three years’.
In March 2013, Chris McManus, 28, a quantity surveyor from Oldham was abducted by Boko Haram militant Islamist group in the northern city of Bernin Kebbi and was killed by the Islamists during a raid to free him carried out by a joint team of British special forces and Nigerian troops.
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest, Anglican Diocese of Jos.