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American aid worker released after 6 years in captivity

Randy Mancini 12 Mar 20
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)
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