The Biden administration said on Monday that an American aid worker kidnapped by militants in West Africa in 2016 had been released from captivity.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Twitter.
“The United States thanks Niger for helping bring him home to all who miss and love him. I thank the many in our government who worked tirelessly to secure his freedom,” Sullivan continued speaking of Woodkey, who spent 30 years as a humanitarian worker in Niger.
Woodke was kidnapped from his home in Abalak, Niger, in October 2016 by gunmen and taken to neighboring Mali, where his family believed he was being held by Islamic State terrorists.
The gunmen killed two of Woodky’s bodyguards before forcing him into a pickup truck.
His wife, Else Woodkey, said in a statement posted online “Bring Home Jeffrey Woodky” website that the United States government had informed her of her husband’s release.
“Else has not yet heard from Jeff, but has been told he is doing well,” a statement on the site said.
“She is deeply grateful to the many people in governments and others around the world who have worked so hard to see this outcome. She praises God for answering the prayers of Christians everywhere who have prayed for this outcome.
A senior administration official, briefing reporters about Woodky, said he was released near the region of Mali and Burkina Faso.
The official did not elaborate on Woodecki’s release but said there was “no quid pro quo” with his captors.
“There were no direct negotiations here between the United States government and a terrorist organization,” the official said. “It is worth making it clear. Certainly, we did not pay a ransom or make a concession to a terrorist organization here.”
The official did not name the terrorist organization that kidnapped Woodky, but said it was part of a hostage-taking network.
“There are a number of types of terrorist networks that are intertwined and overlapping in that part of West Africa that, unfortunately, see kidnapping and hostage-taking as part of their business model, frankly, and as a source of income and support for them,” the official said. “Unfortunately, he has spent six and a half years enduring it.”
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