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French and US hostages released in West Africa after years of captivity

NIAMEY (Reuters) – French journalist Olivier Dubois and U.S. aid worker Jeffery Woodke were both presented at a news conference on Monday in Niger’s capital after being held hostage for years by Islamist militants.

Dubois was kidnapped in Mali in 2021, while Woodke was kidnapped in neighbouring Niger in 2016.

“After several months of efforts, Nigerien authorities obtained the liberation of the two hostages from the hands of (JNIM), an active terrorist group in West Africa and the Sahel,” Niger’s interior minister Hamadou Adamou Souley told journalists at the airport, flanked by the two men.

JNIM is a West Africa-based affiliate of al Qaeda.

Dubois, who disappeared from Mali’s northern city of Gao in April 2021, appeared in a video last August, urging authorities to do everything they could to free him from his Islamist captors.

“It’s huge for me to be here today,” he said on Monday. “I wasn’t expecting it at all. I feel tired but I’m well.”

French President Emmanuel Macron thanked Niger for its help in securing the Dubois’s release.

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan tweeted about Woodke’s release earlier in the day.

“I’m gratified & relieved to see the release of U.S. hostage Jeff Woodke after over 6 years in captivity,” Sullivan said on Twitter. “The U.S. thanks Niger for its help in bringing him home to all who miss & love him.”

The circumstances of the two men’s release was not immediately clear.

Kidnappings are a relatively common tactic by Islamist insurgents linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State, which have gained ground across the Sahel region over the past decade, killing thousands and uprooting over two million people in the process.

Those groups have repeatedly declared French citizens in West Africa to be targets since a 2013 military intervention by France drove them back a year earlier.

(Reporting by Boureima Balima in Niamey; Lucien Libert, Elizabeth Pineau and John Irish in Paris; Writing by GV De Clercq and Sofia Christensen; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Bate Felix and Nick Macfie)

Disclaimer: This report is auto generated from the Reuters news service. ThePrint holds no responsibilty for its content.

Source: The Print

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