Journalist and aid worker freed in Mali after years as hostages

A French journalist held hostage by Islamic extremists for almost two years in Mali was launched on Monday, in response to the French president and media watchdog Reporters With out Borders. 

Olivier Dubois was kidnapped in April 2021 from northern Mali, a area of the nation wracked by jihadi violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted Monday: “Olivier Dubois is free” however he did not give any extra particulars such because the circumstances of Dubois’ launch, together with whether or not it concerned a ransom, weren’t disclosed.

“We really feel pleasure and immense reduction,” Reporters With out Borders, additionally identified by its French acronym RSF, stated in an announcement.

It thanked French authorities for “having carried out the required means to acquire his launch,” with out elaborating.

Help employee Jeffery Woodke additionally launched

Dubois’ launch got here the identical day that an American support employee was additionally freed. 

US officers stated no ransom had been paid for Jeffery Woodke, who was held for greater than six years, they usually praised Niger’s authorities for serving to safe his launch.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the area final week the place he introduced $150 million in direct help to the Sahel area.

“I’m more than happy we at the moment are seeing that come to fruition right now,” Blinken stated, thanking his crew, and Niger, for his or her efforts. “We received’t relaxation till they’re all dwelling, like Jeffery, reunited with their households.”

Els Woodke launched an announcement by way of a household spokesman saying that she had not but spoken along with her husband, however had been instructed he was in good situation.

Woodke had been kidnapped from his dwelling in Abalak, Niger, in October 2016 by males who ambushed and killed his guards and compelled him at gunpoint into their truck, the place he was pushed north towards Mali’s border.

White Home Nationwide Safety Council spokesman John Kirby stated efforts to free Woodke had been spearheaded by the US army, regulation enforcement and intelligence group, working carefully with the French authorities.

Each had been greeted by well-wishers

Officers in Niger unexpectedly introduced Monday morning that the 2 males had taken a particular flight to the nation’s capital however offered no particulars. US officers stated that the American hostage was not freed in Niger however within the surrounding area that features Mali, the place Dubois was kidnapped in 2021.

Each gave the impression to be bodily effectively once they met briefly with a small group of journalists in Niamey. Dubois smiled broadly as he was greeted by well-wishers, saying he was drained however in any other case nice.

“It’s superb for me to be right here, to be free,” the 48-year-old journalist stated. “I didn’t anticipate it in any respect. I want to pay tribute to Niger, and to its data of a majority of these delicate missions. And to pay tribute to France and to all those that made it doable to be right here right now.”

Woodke, who wore his lengthy gray hair in a ponytail and used a strolling stick, didn’t communicate to journalists.


Additionally, on Monday, the Worldwide Committee of the Crimson Cross introduced that two of its staff had been freed in Mali. The group wouldn’t disclose the staff’ identities or the circumstances of the kidnapping, and it couldn’t be confirmed if there was any connection to the opposite hostages whose launch was introduced the identical day.

White Home Nationwide Safety Council spokesman John Kirby stated efforts to free Woodke had been spearheaded by the U.S. army, regulation enforcement and intelligence group, working carefully with the French authorities.

Woodke and Debois had been the highest-profile foreigners identified to be held within the area, and their launch was the biggest since a French lady and two Italian males had been freed collectively in Mali again in October 2020.

The press group Reporters With out Borders, which had lengthy pushed for Dubois’ launch, additionally celebrated Monday.

“We really feel pleasure and immense reduction,” the group stated, thanking French authorities.

Hostages for ransom

Teams have lengthy kidnapped hostages for ransom within the Sahel, the huge, semi-arid expanse beneath the Sahara Desert. Beforehand launched captives have described being moved continuously from website to website in harrowing circumstances amid sweltering temperatures. The extremists purpose to make use of tens of millions in ransom to fund their jihadi operations, although not all nations interact in cost negotiations.

Final yr an Italian couple and their youngster had been kidnapped together with a family worker in southern Mali. Different hostages taken in West Africa embody Ken Elliott, an Australian physician kidnapped in 2016 and Romanian citizen Julian Ghergut, seized close to a mining website in 2015.

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