French journalist Olivier Dubois, hostage for nearly two years of jihadists in Mali, landed in France on Tuesday March 21. He had left Niger the morning after his release which occurred at the same time as that of another American hostage held for more than six years. The French president welcomed the ex-hostage to the air base of Villacoublay, near Paris.
On his arrival in Niamey on Monday afternoon, the journalist appeared smiling and visibly moved when he got off the plane where he was accompanied by Jeffery Woodke, an American humanitarian who had been kidnapped on October 14, 2016 in Niger. “I feel tired but I’m fine”said the 48-year-old French journalist, after giving brief hugs to the reporters present.
French journalist Olivier Dubois, hostage in #Sahel for 711 days and released yesterday in #Niger, has just arrived… https://t.co/7gBvsnNsiV
— MorganeLeCam (@Morgane LeCam)
Above, tweet from Morgane Le Cam, journalist at World Africa.
Olivier Dubois, a freelance journalist, was kidnapped on April 8, 2021 in Gao, in northern Mali, by GSIM, the main jihadist alliance in the Sahel, linked to Al-Qaeda. He collaborated in particular with the daily newspaper Release and the magazine Pointand had been living and working in Mali since 2015 when he was kidnapped.
“It’s huge for me to be here, to be free”
Olivier Dubois, of whom it is not known whether or not he remained in Mali throughout his detention, was the last Frenchman known to have been held hostage by an organization other than a State since the release in October 2020 of Sophie Pétronin, also kidnapped in mali. “It’s huge for me to be here, to be free, I wanted to pay tribute to Niger for its know-how in this delicate mission and to pay tribute to France and to all those who allowed me to be there today »he said on Monday.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday expressed his “huge relief” and testified to his “great gratitude to Niger for this release”, after talking on the phone with the journalist. Alongside Olivier Dubois, Jeffery Woodke, white hair and supported by a cane, wished Monday “thank the Nigerien, American and French governments”.
” Long live France “, exclaimed the man who had been kidnapped when he had been helping nomadic populations for thirty years with an NGO in Abalak, in central Niger. US President Joe Biden said to himself “happy that he will soon be with his wife, Els, and their family”, according to a press release. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was in Niamey last week, thanked the Nigerien government for its “significant help” in the release of Mr. Woodke.
The circumstances of their release remain unknown at this time. “The hostages were recovered safe and sound by the Nigerien authorities before being handed over to the French and American authorities”Nigerian Interior Minister Hamadou Souley said Monday at the airport.
At least three Western hostages still held in the Sahel
During his 711 days of detention, only two videos of Olivier Dubois had been published on social networks. The first, on May 5, 2021, where he himself announced his abduction and another, after almost a year of silence, broadcast on March 13, 2022, with no indication of the date on which the images had been shot.
“It’s just incredible, it’s something we’ve been waiting for two years. For him the nightmare is over, and for his family too. He will be able to resume his life, even if it will be difficult for him to forget that., said the sister of Olivier Dubois, Canèle Bernard. The writing of Release also shared his “tremendous joy”.
Mali, like its neighbors Niger and Burkina Faso, is going through a serious security crisis with recurrent jihadist attacks. Kidnappings are one of the serious dangers faced by journalists and humanitarian workers, both local and foreign, in the Sahel. Two employees of the Malian branch of the International Committee of the Red Cross kidnapped between Gao and Kidal, in northern Mali two weeks ago, were also released on Sunday evening.
At least three Western hostages are still being held in the Sahel: Australian surgeon Arthur Kenneth Elliott, kidnapped in Burkina Faso on January 15, 2016, and Romanian security officer Iulian Ghergut, kidnapped on April 4, 2015 in Burkina Faso. A German cleric, Father Hans-Joachim Lohre, who has not been heard from since November 2022, is considered to have been kidnapped in Mali.
Source: Le Monde