Boko Haram, the group thought to have been responsible for the kidnappings and murders of Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara, is a relatively new name in global terrorism.
But in the last year it has illustrated extraordinary military skill, carrying out church-bombings and hostage-takings in a country where security and stability have rapidly deteriorated.
The name of this radical islamist group loosely translates as ‘western education is a sin’. Its members want Sharia Law in Nigeria, so the hostage takers might have been more motivated by the potential of their own deaths than the riches of a huge ransom.
Nigerian Special Forces led this operation but required the support of the British; their security services have proven to be no match for Boko Haram over the past year.
I asked the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, about precisely this type of operation last month. We were talking hypothetically as we travelled through the Somali capital, Mogodishu.
He said: “I don’t rule that out at all but I also don’t want to hold out the prospect that that is always going to be the answer."
We were talking about Eastern Africa, where the threat of piracy and kidnappings are well known. This dreadful incident underlines the growing threat from Western Africa too.