The Arizona Republic

French journalist, US aid worker freed in West Africa

- Dalatou Mamane, Eric Tucker and Krista Larson

NIAMEY, Niger – An American aid worker held by Islamic extremists in West Africa for more than six years and a French journalist abducted almost two years ago were both freed Monday, authoritie­s said.

They were brought together to Niger’s capital. U.S. officials said no ransom had been paid for aid worker Jeffery Woodke, praising Niger’s government for helping gain his release. The French government did not comment on how journalist Olivier Dubois’ freedom was won.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a visit to Niger last week and announced $150 million in direct assistance to the Sahel region.

Officials in Niger unexpected­ly announced Monday morning that the two men had taken a special flight to the country’s capital but provided no details.

The two men were the highest-profile foreigners known to be held in the region.

The press organizati­on Reporters Without Borders, which had long pushed for Dubois’ release, said that “we feel joy and immense relief,” and thanked French authoritie­s.

Els Woodke released a statement through a family spokesman saying she had not spoken with her husband but had been told he was in good condition.

Woodke had been kidnapped from his home in Abalak, Niger, in October 2016 by men who ambushed and killed his guards and forced him at gunpoint into their truck, where he was driven north toward Mali’s border.

At a 2021 news conference in Washington, Els Woodke said she believed that her husband was being held by an al-Qaida-linked militant group known as JNIM and that the captors had made a multimilli­on-dollar ransom demand.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States