In Niger, 5 of 6 kidnapped aid workers go free

Health workers read a journal near a hospital in Maradi, Niger. Five of six kidnapped aid workers working for medical nongovernmental organizations were released Saturday. Photo by: Andrew Potter / Community Eye Health / CC BY-NC

Chad wants justice served for one of its nationals, who was not among the kidnapped aid workers released Saturday (Nov. 3) near the Niger-Mali border.

Five aid workers from Niger were released after almost three weeks in captivity, aid groups Well-Being of the Mother and Child of Niger (BEFEN) and Alert-Sante confirmed in a statement, according to Agence France-Presse. But Aime Soulembaye, a Chadian health worker, died from gunshot wounds he obtained from the abduction in mid-October.

The aid groups have yet to recover his body.

“The violent death of our colleague Aime Soulembaye is an unjustifiable tragedy,” BEFEN Director Sani Sayadi said in a statement, according to Reuters. Chad’s foreign ministry, meanwhile, has said “we hold responsible the kidnappers who we want to see answer for their acts.”

The aid workers were sleeping when armed men stormed into their compound in a town in Niger’s Maradi region. The kidnappers, according to one of the freed hostages, were members of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, the same al-Qaida-linked group that has seized control over part of northern Mali.

“They thought there was a white person with us,” the aid worker told AFP. A number of international aid agencies operate near the area where they were taken.

The power vacuum that swept northern Mali has been a concern for neighboring countries, including Niger, which provides refuge to a number of Malian refugees fleeing the conflict-afflicted nation.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.

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