French journalist Olivier Dubois (3rd L), freed nearly two years after he was kidnapped by the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM) in Mali, and US national Jeffery Woodke (R), freed after being kidnapped in October 2016 in Niger, are seen as they arrive at the Diori Hamani International Airport in Niamey on March 20, 2023. (Photo by Souleymane AG ANARA / AFP) (Photo by SOULEYMANE AG ANARA/AFP via Getty Images)
OAN Geraldyn Berry
UPDATED 12:44 PM – Monday, March 20, 2023
According to National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, American humanitarian worker Jeff Woodke has been released on Monday after six years in captivity.
Jeff’s wife, Els Woodke from McKinleyville, California, was informed that her husband was in Niamey, the capital of Niger in West Africa.
Sullivan tweeted about the announcement.
I’m gratified & relieved to see the release of U.S. hostage Jeff Woodke after over 6 years in captivity. The U.S. thanks Niger for its help in bringing him home to all who miss & love him. I thank so many across our government who’ve worked tirelessly toward securing his freedom.
— Jake Sullivan (@JakeSullivan46) March 20, 2023
According to the National Security Advisor, the event was the culmination of years’ worth of work. Sullivan, however, did not to elaborate on the circumstances surrounding Woodke’s release or his current whereabouts, only that there was no ransom paid, nor concessions made as part of securing the 61-year-old’s release.
Woodke’s release was announced days after Secretary of State Antony Blinken travelled to Niger for an official visit, becoming the first top United States diplomat to do so.
“As you know, I have no higher priority or focus than bringing home any unjustly detained American, wherever that is in the world,” Blinken told reporters in Washington. “We won’t rest until they’re all home and like Jeffrey reunited with their families.”
Woodke had served as a missionary and humanitarian aid worker in Niger for more than 30 years, according to the FBI. He was held captive in Africa since 2016, after being abducted in October of that year from his home in Abalak, Niger. Armed men had ambushed and assassinated his guards before putting him in their truck, and then drove north towards Mali’s border.
Although nobody has publicly taken credit for Woodke’s abduction, a number of Islamist militants with ties to Al Qaeda are known to operate in the area.
French journalist Olivier Dubois was also reportedly released.
President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, made the announcement on Monday.
Otage au Mali pendant 711 jours, le journaliste Olivier Dubois est enfin libre.
Lors de mon premier discours en tant que Présidente du Parlement européen, j’avais souligné notre solidarité à son égard et ses proches.
Je me réjouis de cette nouvelle. pic.twitter.com/JKxF290ybH
— Roberta Metsola (@EP_President) March 20, 2023
Dubois worked as a freelance journalist since 2015 for the Le Point newsweekly and the daily newspaper Libération in Paris. Dubois was held hostage in Mali for over two years.
In May 2021, the journalist himself announced his abduction in a video posted on social media.
He claimed that he had been kidnapped in the northern city of Gao by the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM), the main jihadist alliance in the Sahel region of Africa which is linked to Al-Qaeda.
Following his release, French President Emmanuel Macron thanked the country of Niger and said that Dubois was in “good health” after speaking to him.
Je viens d’échanger avec Olivier Dubois : il est en bonne santé. Soulagement immense pour la Nation, pour ses proches et ses confrères journalistes. Grande reconnaissance au Niger pour cette libération. https://t.co/MfocFXyVFp
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) March 20, 2023
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