The Dallas Morning News
2 freed after Blinken’s visit
Extremists held U.S. aid worker for 6 years, French journalist for 2
NIAMEY, Niger — An American aid worker and a French journalist kidnapped and held by Islamist extremists were freed on Monday, four days after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken paid a visit to West Africa.
U.S. officials said no ransom had been paid for aid worker Jeffery Woodke, who was held for more than six years. They praised Niger’s government for helping secure his release. The French government did not comment on how freedom was won for journalist Olivier Dubois, who was abducted almost two years ago in Mali.
Blinken had visited the region last week, where he announced $150 million in direct assistance.
“I’m very pleased we are now seeing that come to fruition today,” Blinken said, thanking his team, and Niger, for their efforts.
Els Woodke released a statement through a family spokesman saying that she had not yet 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, Els Woodke said she believed that her husband was being held by an al-qaeda-linked militant group known as JNIM and said her husband’s captors had made a multimillion-dollar ransom demand for his release.
Officials in Niger unexpectedly announced Monday the two men had taken a special flight to the country’s capital but provided no details. U.S. officials said the American hostage was not freed in Niger but in the surrounding region that includes Mali.