An American aid worker kidnapped by militants in West Africa in 2016 has been released from captivity, the Biden administration said on Monday.
“I’m gratified & relieved to see the release of U.S. hostage Jeff Woodke after over 6 years in captivity,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Twitter.
“The U.S. thanks Niger for its help in bringing him home to all who miss & love him. I thank so many across our government who’ve worked tirelessly toward securing his freedom,” Sullivan continued about Woodke, who spent 30 years as a humanitarian worker in Niger.
Woodke was kidnapped by from his home in Abalak, Niger, by armed men in October 2016 and was taken to neighboring Mali where his family believed he was being held by Islamic State terrorists.
The gunmen killed Woodke’s two guards before forcing him into a pickup truck.
His wife, Els Woodke, said in a statement posted on the “Bring Jeffery Woodke Home” website that she had been informed by the US government that her husband had been freed.
“Els has not yet heard from Jeff but she has been told he is in good condition,” a statement on the site said.
“She has expressed her profound thanks to the many people in governments and others around the world who have worked so hard to see this result. She praises God for answering the prayers of Christians everywhere who have prayed for this outcome,” it continued.
A senior administration official in a briefing for reporters on Woodke said he was released near the Mali-Burkina Faso area.
The official did not go into detail about Woodke’s release but said there was “no quid pro quo” with his captors.
“There was no direct negotiation here between the U.S. government and a terrorist organization,” the official said. “It’s worth making that clear. Certainly, we did not pay a ransom or make a concession to a terrorist organization here.”
The official did not say which terrorist organization abducted Woodke, but did say it was part of a hostage-taking network.
“There are a number of kind of intersecting, overlapping terrorist networks in that part of West Africa that, unfortunately, see kidnapping and hostage-taking as part of their business model, frankly, and as a source of revenue and support for them,” the official said. “And unfortunately, he has spent six-and-a-half years enduring that.”
With Post wires
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