Monday, March 23, 2009

Driver Kidnapped with UN Hostages in Niger Freed

The driver kidnapped along with two UN envoys to Niger by Al-Qaeda in December 2008 has been released unharmed. Via AP:
The two diplomats, including the U.N. special envoy for Niger, are still being held after their abduction in December.

Al-Qaida's North Africa branch, an Algeria-based group, has claimed it is holding the two Canadians, along with four tourists — two Swiss citizens, a German woman and a British man — who were kidnapped in January in the desert near the border in neighboring Mali.

Soumana Mounkaila, who is employed by the U.N. Development Program, was released in Mali's capital, Bamako, over the weekend and has been recounting his experiences in talks with U.N. officials.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement Monday praising the cooperation of local governments and individuals whose negotiations helped Mounkaila gain his freedom.

Ban again called on the kidnappers to free the two remaining U.N. hostages: Ban's U.N. special envoy for Niger, Robert Fowler, and Fowler's aide, Louis Guay.

Al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa has not issued demands for the hostages' release. But in past kidnappings in the Sahara, the world's largest desert, it has obtained ransoms for Western tourists.

Thank God for Mr. Mounkaila's safe return. Please continue to pray for the protection and rescue of Robert Fowler and Louis Guay, and for all the other hostages in Africa and around the world, especially the ones known only to God.

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