Jeffery Woodke, an American aid worker kidnapped more than six years ago from Niger, has been released from captivity

Akhil A Pillai
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After being kidnapped in Niger more than six years ago, an American aid worker named Jeffery Woodke has been released from captivity. Woodke had been doing humanitarian aid work in Niger for over 30 years when he was kidnapped from his home in Abalak in October 2016. His captors killed his guards and forced him at gunpoint into their truck before driving him north towards Mali's border.

The Biden administration announced his release, describing it as the culmination of long years effort, but did not disclose where he is now or what led to his release. However, a senior administration official denied that any ransom had been paid or any concessions made to Woodke's captors. U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan expressed his gratitude and relief over Woodke's release, thanking Niger for its assistance in bringing him home and praising those in the U.S. government who worked tirelessly to secure his freedom.

Woodke's wife, Els Woodke, had stated at a news conference in 2021 that her husband's captors had demanded a multimillion-dollar ransom for his release. She believed that he was in the custody of a West African affiliate of Al Qaeda known as JNIM and had pleaded with the group's leader to release him. She expressed her gratitude to God and all those who had prayed for her husband's release.

The U.S. official who briefed reporters did not identify the specific group responsible for Woodke's captivity but noted that there were multiple hostage-holding networks in the area where he was taken. While Woodke was kidnapped in Niger, officials believe that he was moved over the years into Mali and Burkina Faso. The U.S. official credited the government of Niger with helping to facilitate Woodke's release, adding that he was freed outside Niger in the area of Mali and Burkina Faso.

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