Mar 20, 2023, 11:12am EDT

Who are the US aid worker and French journalist freed after being held hostage in West Africa?

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken poses for a photograph with members of the Niger Defence and Security Forces before departing Niger on Friday.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in Niger last week. BOUREIMA HAMA/Pool via REUTERS

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The News

Two hostages from the United States and France were freed after years of captivity in West Africa, officials announced Monday.

French journalist Olivier Dubois and American aid worker Jeff Woodke were both released days after U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken visited Niger and announced a new wave of support for the region.

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The View From France

Dubois has worked for French outlets including Libération and Le Point. He was abducted by a jihadist group in Mali in 2021, after pitching a story to interview a lieutenant in the Malian branch of an Al-Qaeda-linked group.

The French government said it was doing what it could to free the journalist.

Videos and photos posted online Monday showed Dubois arriving at the airport in Niamey, the capital of Niger. In one video, Dubois thanked France and Niger and told reporters that he has only been thinking about his family for the past two years.

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The View From The U.S.

Woodke, a Christian humanitarian aid worker, had been held hostage for six years after being kidnapped in Niger.

The White House confirmed his release Monday. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan tweeted that he was "gratified & relieved" to see Woodke's release.

"The U.S. thanks Niger for its help in bringing him home to all who miss & love him. I thank so many across our government who’ve worked tirelessly toward securing his freedom," Sullivan added. He didn't provide any more details on Woodke's location after his release.

The release of Woodke and Dubois comes after Blinken visited Niger last Thursday and announced $150 million in new humanitarian aid for Africa's Sahel region. The U.S. is looking to strengthen ties with Niger as violence committed by extremist groups threatens to further destabilize the region.


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