French journalist, American aid worker kidnapped in West Africa freed

French journalist, American aid worker kidnapped in West Africa freed

Action by authorities in Niger was 'decisive,' says French embassy

By Aurore Bonny

DOUALA, Cameroon (AA) - French journalist Olivier Dubois and American aid worker Jeffery Woodke were freed and welcomed at Niamey Airport in Niger on Monday.

"Olivier Dubois is free," French President Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter.

Dubois was freed thanks to the decisive action of the Nigerien authorities, according to a release from the French embassy in Niger.

The 49-year-old had been held hostage since April 8, 2021 in Gao in northern Mali by the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (GSIM), which is affiliated with Al Qaeda. He was a correspondent for various French media outlets, which reported that he was abducted during an interview with Abdallah Ag Albakaye, a senior GSIM official.

“I have just spoken to Olivier Dubois: he is in good health. Immense relief for the Nation, his loved ones and his fellow journalists. Great gratitude to Niger for this release,” said Macron.

The French presidency also welcomed Woodke’s release, "which occurred at the same time.”

He was kidnapped on Oct. 16, 2016 in Niger by the GSIM and taken to Mali.

"He is safe," said his wife, as quoted by the New York Times.

US White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said he was "pleased and relieved."

"The United States thanks Niger for the assistance provided" in the context of this release, he said on Twitter.

The Nigerien authorities’ action was "decisive," according to Catherine Colonna, France’s Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs.

Dubois also paid "tribute to Niger for its know-how" in what he described as a "delicate mission.”

"It's huge for me to be here, to be free, I didn't expect it," he said.

Christophe Deloire, the secretary-general of Reporters without Borders, said Dubois "seemed to be in good shape" when "several times in recent months" the organization received news of him.

France "used all necessary means to obtain his release," he added in a statement.

The release of Dubois and Woodke came hours after the release of two employees of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) who were kidnapped two weeks ago in northern Mali.

They were released "safe and sound and unconditionally," the non-governmental organization announced.

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