American Charity Worker Released After Years As Prisoner In West Africa

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American charity worker Jeff Woodke was liberated on Monday, more than six years after he was kidnapped by extremists in Niger.

Woodke’s release was announced days after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Niger for an official visit, becoming the first top U.S. diplomat to visit the country.

“I’m gratified & relieved to see the release of U.S. hostage Jeff Woodke after over 6 years in captivity,” U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Twitter. “The U.S. thanks Niger for its help in bringing him home to all who miss & love him.”

A senior administration official praised efforts of Niger in helping secure the release of Woodke but declined to say where he was exactly on Monday. The official, who spoke to reporters by phone and on the condition of anonymity, added that Woodke’s family had been notified.

There were no direct negotiations with the militant organization that held Woodke, and no ransom or so-called quid pro quo was part of his release, the official said.

It was not entirely clear where Woodke was held during his captivity, the official said, but he was known to have been in multiple locations and multiple countries.

The official declined to say which group held him but described it as a “captive network that operates across parts of Niger, Mali and the Burkina Faso area.”

Woodke was released outside of Niger. The New York Times first reported his release.

The official also said Niger was part of the effort that helped free a second U.S. citizen held by the same network, although he did not name that citizen or provide details around their release.

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