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Released missionary speaks out

Jeff Woodke (center) in the airport in Niger after his release from captivity Associated Press/Photo by Judith Besnard, file

Released missionary speaks out

An American missionary kidnapped in Niger told the Associated Press that the U.S. government was not transparent in its efforts to free him. Islamist extremists kidnapped Jeff Woodke, now 62, from his home in Niger in 2016. He was released in March. Woodke’s private negotiator said he belatedly learned the kidnappers demanded a 3 million euro ransom and the release of prisoners from a West African jail. He said he did not know about the demand until after the government had convinced the captors not to require the prisoners’ release and the captors had doubled the ransom.

How did they free him? Woodke’s wife, Els, said she never paid a ransom, and the government has not disclosed the conditions for her husband’s release. She tried to raise money for the ransom, but the FBI would not give her written assurance that no one involved would be prosecuted, she said. The Justice Department typically does not prosecute a hostage’s family or friends for supporting a terrorist organization by paying a ransom.

Dig deeper: From the WORLD archives, read Onize Ohikere’s report in The Sift on Woodke’s abduction.

Mary Muncy

Mary Muncy is a breaking news reporter for WORLD. She graduated from World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College.

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