(UnitedVoice.com) – Islamic militants kidnapped American Jeffery Woodke, a Christian aid worker, in October 2016 while he was working in Niger. For years, the US had quietly worked to bring him home but was not successful — until now.
On Monday, March 20, US officials announced Woodke was freed from captivity. After he was released, the 62-year-old was medically evaluated in Niamey, Niger. President Joe Biden’s administration didn’t give away much information about the details surrounding his captivity or release. The New York Times reported an official who spoke to the press did say that no ransom was paid, nor did they make any concessions.
Els Woodke, the aid worker’s wife, told the Times, “He is safe.” She said she spoke to her husband, and he was in “great spirits.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a press conference celebrating Woodke’s release. He said his top priority is to bring home “unjustly detained American[s].” The secretary visited the West African nation last week. His trip to Niger marked the first time a sitting secretary of state has visited the country.
Sec. Blinken celebrates release of Jeffery Woodke, who was held hostage in Niger.
“I have no higher priority or focus than bringing home any unjustly detained American, wherever that is in the world. We won’t rest until they’re all home.” https://t.co/TMfzXK7ZHC pic.twitter.com/vB7urFNgnO
— ABC News (@ABC) March 20, 2023
Biden thanked everyone who worked on the case. He also claimed the US government’s highest priority is to bring Americans who are being held hostage home.
In 2017, US soldiers tracked a cellphone signal from terrorist Doundoun Cheffou, who was suspected of playing a role in Woodke’s kidnapping. Four of the American service members were killed in an ambush.
In addition to Woodke’s release, French journalist Olivier Dubois was also released. He went missing in April 2021 in Mali. A hostage video was released by an al-Qaeda affiliate after his capture. Reuters reported the journalist spoke to the press, saying it was “huge” for him to be there. He said he wasn’t expecting to be released. “I feel tired, but I’m well,” Dubois said.
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