A Christian aid worker who was held hostage in Niger for six years has been released.
Jeff Woodke who’s from the United States, had just stepped down as the head of Jemed, a charity supported by the aid agency Tearfund when he was kidnapped in 2016 in the town of Abalak in northern Niger.
Gunmen also shot and killed his guards. It’s believed his captors had demanded a ‘multi-million dollar’ ransom for his release in 2021, but US officials say no ransom was paid to secure his freedom.
However the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently announced an aid package for the region worth around 150-million dollars and some believe this may have helped encourage the government of Niger to secure his release. A French journalist, Olivier Dubois, who was abducted in Mali in 2021 was released at the same time.
At a press conference Mr Blinken welcomed their release :
“I have no higher priority or focus than bringing home any unjustly detained American, wherever that is in the world. We won’t rest until they’re all home and, like Jeffery, reunited with their families.”
Nigerian Interior Minister, Hamadou Souley, said that Mr Woodke and Mr Dubois had been freed from the hands of JNIM, a West Africa-based affiliate of al-Qaeda, after several months of work by the country’s authorities to secure their release.