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British missionary killed, 3 others freed, following abduction in Nigeria

(Reuters/Joe Brock)A military gunboat is seen on a river in Nigeria's Delta region April 3, 2011.

One British missionary has been killed while three Christian charity workers have been released following their abduction in Nigeria three weeks ago.

The British Foreign Office announced on Monday that Ian Squire, who had been working with a Christian medical charity in southern Nigeria, has been killed. However, the circumstances surrounding his death were not specified.

Squire has been working with three other missionaries — Alanna Carson, David Donovan and Shirley Donovan, who has since been released and safely returned to their families.

"We are supporting the families of four British people who were abducted on October 13 in Nigeria, one of whom was tragically killed," a U.K. Foreign Office spokesman said, according to Premier.

"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 spokesman added.

The four missionaries were reportedly abducted from their accommodation in Delta State in the southern part of the country in the early hours of Oct. 13.

It is still unclear how the three hostages were freed, but some reports have indicated that Nigerian authorities negotiated their release.

In a statement, the families of the four hostages expressed their gratitude to the British High Commission and the Nigerian authorities.

"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," the statement read.

Zanna Ibrahim, Delta's police commissioner, had stated last month that the kidnappers were members of a local militant group called the Karowei.

He surmised that the abduction may have been a response to a recent government effort to tackle militancy called "Operation Crocodile Smile."

Just days after the abduction, Ibrahim's officers paraded 14 kidnapping suspects before local media, including five accused of being involved in the abduction of the four missionaries.

The charity workers had been operating in the region for the past 14 years, running Bible classes as well as four clinics that offer free medical treatment, including immunizations and natal classes.

Much of their work is done in Delta's so-called "riverine" areas, which are only accessible by boat. Britain's Foreign Office has cautioned against traveling to such areas because they lie mostly beyond the reach of the authorities and are known to be havens of militant groups.

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