Belfast Telegraph

Nigeria kidnap was a 'terrible ordeal' says father of NI hostage

By Staff Reporter

The father of a young Northern Ireland woman who was held hostage in Nigeria for three weeks has said his daughter went through a "terrible ordeal".

Alanna Carson (23), an optometrist from Ballymoney in Co Antrim, had been working with the New Foundations Christian medical charity in the Niger Delta region of the west African country when she was abducted in mid-October with three other UK colleagues.

One of the hostages, Ian Squire, died, reportedly from an asthma attack, before Alanna, along with Dr David Donovan (57) and Shirley Donovan (57) were released earlier this month.

It's understood a ransom was demanded, but it is not known if it was paid.

It was reported that the kidnappers were a criminal gang who had recently kidnapped the mother of a local politician.

Two suspects have since been arrested while a third was killed in a shoot-out. State police spokesman Andrew Aniamaka said on Thursday that the suspects were arrested in Nigeria's oil hub of Warri on Wednesday.

Alanna's father Alan said his daughter is recovering at their family farm and is not yet ready to speak publicly.

But he said he wanted the world to know it was "God's grace" that brought her home safely.

"What I will say, is that if it wasn't for God's grace it could have been much worse and we may never have got her home," he told the Sunday World.

"As a committed Christian I would want to get that message out on Alanna's behalf, but of course I'm very glad to have her home. She has been through a terrible ordeal."

Alanna works full-time as an optometrist at Specsavers in Leven, Fife, Scotland.

Alan said she had been helping to give eye tests to people during her work in Nigeria.

A statement issued on behalf of the families of all four hostages said: "We are grateful for the support received by the British High Commission and help from the Nigerian authorities in negotiating their release.

"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. This has been a traumatic time for our loved ones who were kidnapped and for their families and friends here in the UK."

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