American humanitarian worker Jeff Woodke, kidnapped in Niger in 2016, is released
WASHINGTON – An American humanitarian worker who was kidnapped in the West African nation of Niger has been freed.
Jeffery Woodke was freed after six years of captivity, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan announced on Twitter.
“The U.S. thanks Niger for its help in bringing him home to all who miss & love him,” Sullivan wrote. “I thank so many across our government who’ve worked tirelessly toward securing his freedom.”
No other details of Woodke’s release were disclosed. But, "he is safe, and he is in the hands of U.S. government officials," said John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council.
Woodke remains in Africa but will be reunited with his family after receiving a full medical screening, Kirby said.
Woodke kidnapped from home in Niger
A multi-pronged effort spearheaded by the U.S. military and involving law enforcement and the intelligence community, with support from French officials, worked for more than six years to find Woodke and secure his release, Kirby said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken held discussions with leaders about Woodke's captivity when he visited Niger last week, Kirby said.
No ransom was paid and no concessions were made to Woodke's captors, Kirby said. No prison swaps were made to secure his release, Kirby said.
Woodke was 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. Though he was believed to have been abducted by a West African affiliate of the Islamic State group, Woodke was thought to be in Africa’s vast Sahel region and held by JNIM, a West African affiliate of al-Qaida.
Woodke had been doing humanitarian aid work in Niger for more than 30 years.
French journalist Olivier Dubois, abducted nearly two years ago, also was freed Monday. The French government did not comment on how his freedom was secured.
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Michael Collins covers the White House. Follow him on Twitter @mcollinsNEWS.
Contributing: Joey Garrison and The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jeff Woodke, humanitarian worker kidnapped in Niger, has been freed