Six gunmen, two days ago, kidnapped an American from his home in a village in Southern Niger. They came on motorbikes with AK47 assault rifles. The gunmen requested a ransom for his release, a local official said.
The hostage, Philip Walton, described as the son of a missionary living in Niger, was abducted Monday night by six men armed with Kalashnikovs on the outskirts of Massalata, a village about 10 kilometers from the border with Nigeria. Philip Walton had been living in Massalata with his wife and child for two years, according to his father, who himself lives in Birni Nkonni and has been in Niger for nearly 30 years. “The kidnappers phoned the man’s father and demanded a ransom,” said Ibrahim Abba Lele, prefect of the Birni Nkonni department, which includes Massalata.
The US State Department has confirmed that an American citizen abducted in Niger: “We are providing their family all possible consular assistance. Security reinforcements have been sent to the area, and efforts with the US and Nigerian security services are underway to secure the release of the captured man.”
Niger lies in the Sahel. The country is struggling with a jihadist insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives and driven hundreds of thousands from their homes. Several foreign aids are kidnapped often in the area.
Criminal gangs and animal thieves often kidnap for ransom, and young Fulani herders make up many of the marauding gangs in northern Nigeria and other West African countries.
Niger also faces attacks by the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram on its southeastern borders.
In addition to deadly raids, Boko Haram has increasingly carried out cross-border ransom kidnappings.