A French journalist and a US aid worker who had been kidnapped by jihadists in the Sahel have been released, an AFP journalist saw Monday.
French freelancer Olivier Dubois and American aid worker Jeffery Woodke emerged from a plane that landed at an airport in Niamey, the capital of Niger.
Dubois, 48, had been kidnapped in Mali in 2021 while Woodke went missing in Niger in 2016.
“I feel tired, but I’m fine,” said Dubois, smiling but visibly overwhelmed, dressed in a white shirt, T-shirt and beige trousers.
“It’s amazing for me to be here, to be free,” he said, speaking to a small group of journalists.
“I want to pay tribute to Niger for its skills in this delicate mission and pay tribute to France, to all those who have helped me to be here today.”
Woodke, leaning on a stick, and with white hair, was at his side.
He was seized at gunpoint in October 2016 from his home in Abalak in the Tahoua region of Niger, about 350 kilometres (220 miles) from Niamey.
The 61-year-old had served as a missionary and humanitarian aid worker in Niger for 32 years, according to a supporters’ website.
Niger Interior Minister Hamadou Souley, who was at the airport, said “the hostages were picked up safe and sound by the Nigerien authorities before being handed over to the French and American authorities.”
In Washington, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan tweeted he was “gratified & relieved” at Woodke’s release.
“The US thanks Niger for its help in bringing him home to all who miss & love him.”