UPDATE - American aid worker kidnapped in Niger released: White House

UPDATE - American aid worker kidnapped in Niger released: White House

'The US thanks Niger for its help in bringing' Jeffery Woodke home, says National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan

By Michael Hernandez and Iclal Turan

WASHINGTON (AA) - An American aid worker taken hostage in Niger in 2016 has been released, the White House confirmed Monday.

Jeffery Woodke has been set free after being kidnapped in the West African nation over six years ago, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said.

"I’m gratified & relieved to see the release of U.S. hostage Jeff Woodke after over 6 years in captivity," 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."

US President Joe Biden said he was "gratified" after Woodke was released.

Noting that he was kidnapped in the Sahel as an aid worker, Biden said: "The United States extends our deep appreciation to the Nigerien government, which was a critical partner in helping to secure his release."

Thanking the US public servants working for the release of Woodke, Biden said: "We remain committed to keep faith with Americans held hostage and wrongfully detained all around the world, and there is no higher priority for this Administration than our work to bring them home."

Woodke had lived in West Africa for decades, working as an aid worker before he was abducted from his home in Niger in 2016.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week visited the country in what marked the first such visit by a top US diplomat to Niger. He met then with President Mohamed Bazoum and Foreign Minister Hassoumi Massoudou in what may have been meetings central to securing Woodke's release.

Woodke was kidnapped on Oct. 16, 2016 in Niger by the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (GSIM), which is affiliated with Al Qaeda, and taken to Mali.

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