National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan announced on Monday the release of Jeff Woodkey, an American aid worker held hostage in Africa since 2016.
Sullivan tweeted that he was “delighted and relieved to see that American hostage Jeff Woodkey has been released after more than 6 years in captivity.
“The United States thanks Niger for helping bring him home to all who miss and love him,” Sullivan said. “I thank the many across our government who worked tirelessly to secure his freedom.”
Woodky was kidnapped from his home in Abalak, Niger, in October 2016 by men who ambushed and killed his guards and forced him at gunpoint into their truck, where he was driven north toward the Mali border.
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A senior administration official who briefed reporters on Monday about Woodkey’s release described the procedure as the culmination of years of effort but declined to say what exactly led to his release from captivity or where he is now.
The official also said that no ransom was paid and no concessions were made in securing the 61-year-old’s release.
There were some indications he was moving across the border between Niger and Mali and was alive as a “bargaining chip,” a source close to Woodky told Fox News in 2018.
In an interview with The New York Times, Woodkey’s wife, Else, of McKinleyville, California, said Jeff is in Niamey, the capital of Niger.
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“He’s fine,” she said, adding, “I don’t know yet if he’s healthy.”
In a statement released by the family’s spokesperson, the Associated Press stated that it “commends God for answering the prayers of Christians everywhere who have prayed for this outcome.”
The FBI had previously said that Woodkey had worked in Niger for more than 25 years.
The identities of Woodky’s kidnappers have not been released.
While no group has publicly claimed responsibility for Woodky’s kidnapping, a group of al-Qaeda-linked jihadists is known to operate in the area.
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Ahead of the announcement of Woodky’s release, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken visited Niger last week.
“It was great to be in Niger this week,” Blinken wrote on Twitter on Friday. “At a time of great challenge, this nation is an extraordinary model of resilience, democracy and cooperation that we deeply value and respect.”
Holly McKay and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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