A California missionary and a French journalist abducted in Niger by an Islamic terrorist group have been released.
Aid worker Jeff Woodke, who is from McKinleyville, California, was kidnapped on Oct. 14, 2016, from his home in the northern city of Abalak, Niger.
Woodke, 62, and French journalist Olivier Dubois, whose release was also announced Monday, were spotted together at Diori Hamani International Airport in Niamey, the capital of Niger.
“I’m gratified & relieved to see the release of U.S. hostage Jeff Woodke after over 6 years in captivity. 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 tweeted.
Jeffery Woodke is now being offered support and transport. He was released outside of Niger in the Mali-Burkina Faso area, the official said.
Details about what led to the releases remain unknown. However, one government official told reporters that no ransom was paid and that the releases came as a result of years of advocacy, according to USA Today.
Woodke was abducted when armed militants barged into his home in Abalak, murdered his guards and kidnapped him. Woodke had traveled back and forth to Niger for roughly three decades. His work in the West African country included the construction of wells and schools in the region.
He was also an instructor at Redwood Coast School of Missions, which is operated by the Arcata First Baptist Church.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken thanked Roger Carstens, the U.S. special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, and other department officials whose yearslong work on Woodke’s plight finally came “to fruition today.”
Woodke, who had been kidnapped in October 2016, was released outside of Niger, “in the Mali-Burkina” Faso area, according to a senior Biden administration official.
“Let me just start with some very good news this morning, and that is the release of Jeffery Woodke after more than six years in captivity,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday. “I want to thank the government of Niger, where I was just last week, for its important assistance in bringing him home.”
“I have no higher priority or focus than bringing home any unjustly detained American, wherever that is in the world,” he added.