Two local medical nongovernmental organizations are calling for the release of their staff members who were taken in a town in central Niger, an area close to where a number of international aid agencies operate.
Six aid workers were taken by unidentified gunmen Monday night (Oct. 15) in Dakoro, a town in the Maradi region. The suspects, believed to be members of an organization linked to al-Qaida, entered the workers’ compound while they were sleeping, local government officials said. One of the aid workers was reportedly injured.
At least three of the aid workers are local staff members of the Well-Being of the Mother and Child of Niger and one is an Alert Sante aid worker from Chad, both groups told Reuters in a joint statement. Details for the other two hostages are still unknown.
Local security forces have reportedly located the kidnappers in a pastoral area near the border of Mali. They are now “surrounded,” according to a military source who spoke on condition of anonymity, Reuters reports. “However, the forces have been instructed not to endanger the lives of hostages.”
It is not immediately clear how the incident could affect aid agencies’ work in the area. CARE International and Oxfam carry out projects in Dakoro, according to The Associated Press. The offices of Africare and Plan International in the country, meanwhile, are located in the city of Niamey, a 9-hour drive from Dakoro in Maradi region.
Niger is swamped by humanitarian needs and its security is under threat due to the power vacuum that swept northern Mali. Flooding has affected thousands of Nigeriens, and Malian refugees have continued to pour into the country, exacerbating food insecurity.
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