US citizen kidnapped in West African nation of Niger, say officials
By DANIELLE PAQUETTE | The Washington Post | Published: October 27, 2020
ACCRA, Ghana — An American citizen was kidnapped in southern Niger early Tuesday near an area where militants linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State are known to attack, a U.S. military officer said.
No group has asserted responsibility for the abduction, which happened in a remote town close to the West African country's border with Nigeria. The U.S. officer spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not yet authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
A senior government official in Niger also confirmed the kidnapping, adding that it was in the town of Birnin Konni. He also was not authorized to speak publicly.
Details otherwise have remained murky with the American's identity and reason for being in Niger still unknown.
Niger is grappling with an Islamist insurgency that has grown deadlier during the coronavirus pandemic.
Violence in the Sahel, a vast stretch of arid land south of the Sahara Desert, has surged as nations struggle to confront a security crisis on top of the public health threat.
The number of casualties this year had reached 5,365 by October, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, which is tracking the conflict — a 12 percent increase from 2019's entire tally.
The kidnapping comes less than two months after Islamic State fighters ambushed a normally calm giraffe sanctuary near Niger's capital, Niamey, killing seven aid workers and their local guide.
Niger's military has partnered with French soldiers — with the United States providing intelligence — in the fight against extremism.
The U.S. military began flying Reaper drones out of an air base last November in the desert region of Agadez.
The 17-acre facility is a base for hundreds of American soldiers. It took about four years to build and cost an estimated $110 million.