Witnesses said that several armed assailants killed a police officer early Monday before abducting the foreigner.
The police spokesman in Kano, Magaji Majia, confirmed the kidnapping and said that a manhunt was underway to find the German.
The German Foreign Ministry in Berlin had no immediate comment.
Kidnappings for ransom are not unusual in Nigeria, although abductions of foreigners in the north are rare. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the engineer's capture.
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