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Niger: French Journalist, US Aid Worker Released From Islamist Militants’ Captivity

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At a press conference in Niger on Monday, French journalist Olivier Dubois got emotional while the excited reporters greeted and hugged him as he announced the release of him and American relief worker Jeffery Woodke who had been made captive in West Africa for years by Islamist militants.

Woodke was abducted in Niger in 2016, while Dubois was abducted in neighboring Mali in 2021.

In a recording from last August, Dubois pleaded with officials to take all necessary steps to free him from his captors. He worked for the magazines Liberation and Le Point. As he responded to inquiries, Dubois grinned and said, “It’s huge for me to be here today. “I wasn’t expecting it at all. I feel tired but I’m well.

Christian aid worker Woodke thanked God and the Nigerien, American, and French officials for assisting in his rescue.  “Greetings to my family,” he said during the meeting.

“After several months of efforts, Nigerien authorities obtained the liberation of the two hostages from the hands of (JNIM), an active terrorist group in West Africa and the Sahel,” said Niger’s interior minister Hamadou Adamou Souley, flanked by the two men.

Al Qaeda’s West African branch is called JNIM.

Emmanuel Macron, French President, praised Niger for its assistance in securing Dubois’ release. Macron posted on Twitter, “I have just spoken to Olivier Dubois: he is good health.”

Uncertainty remained regarding the two men’s release’s specific conditions.

According to a top US official, there were no direct negotiations with the terrorist group holding Woodke, and there was no ransom or alleged “quid pro quo” in exchange for his release.

Under the condition of anonymity, the official told reporters that although it was not completely clear where Woodke was detained during his captivity, it was known that he had traveled to numerous cities and nations.

The senior administration official stated that Woodke was released outside of Niger and that Niger was involved in attempts to free a second American citizen held by the same network.

Suellen Tennyson, an American Catholic nun who was abducted in northern Burkina Faso in April of last year and released in August, was identified as the hostage by a U.S. State Department source.

Islamist rebels affiliated with al Qaeda and the Islamic State, who have consolidated their control over the Sahel region over the past ten years while displacing over two million people, frequently use kidnapping as a strategy.

Since France’s military intervention drove them away in 2013 and forced them to return the following year, those groups have repeatedly proclaimed French citizens in West Africa to be targets.

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