Updated Mar 20, 2023 - World

U.S. citizen kidnapped in Niger released after more than 6 years

Jeff Woodke

A video grab made on October 18, 2016 shows U.S. aid worker Jeffery Woodke during a ceremony to introduce his NGO in Abalak, two days before he was captured. Photo: STR/AFP via Getty Images

Jeff Woodke, an American aid worker who had been held hostage for more than six years, has been released, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan confirmed Monday.

The big picture: Woodke was kidnapped from his home in Niger by jihadists in October 2016 and was believed to have been taken to neighboring Mali, according to the New York Times.

  • “He is safe,” his wife, Els Woodke, told the Times in an interview. “I don’t yet know if he is healthy.”
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who visited Niger last week, lauded Woodke's release as "very good news" at a press briefing Monday.
  • "I have no higher priority or focus than bringing home any unjustly detained American, wherever that is in the world," he added.

What they're saying: "I’m gratified & relieved to see the release of U.S. hostage Jeff Woodke after over 6 years in captivity," Sullivan tweeted Monday, thanking the government of Niger for its help in "bringing him home."

  • Els Woodke told the Times that she had been informed that her husband was in Niamey, Niger's capital.
  • "He's safe and he is in the hands of U.S. government officials," White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said at a press briefing later Monday.
  • Woodke will receive the "best medical care possible," Kirby said, adding that, "after a full medical screening he will be reunited with his loved ones in the near future."

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details.

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