Catholic Priest Kidnapped by Presumed Islamist Militants in Niger

Hundreds of African migrants rescued from Niger desert
AFP/ISSOUF SANOGO

A missionary priest was kidnapped in Niger this week by armed gunmen presumed to be jihadists from neighboring Burkina Faso.

On Monday evening, a number of suspected Islamist militants stormed the rectory of Italian Father Pierluigi Maccalli, a missionary priest from the Society of African Missions, abducting him from the village of Bamoanga.

Church spokesman Thomas Codjovi said that some eight armed men arrived on motorcycles around 9:00pm and seized Father Maccalli.

“There were also some nuns there but he was the only one they wanted to kidnap,” Codjovi said.

Another priest who was present at the kidnapping, Father Mauro Armanino, said that the priest was most likely taken by jihadists from Burkina Faso.

Niger’s government spokesman, Zakaria Abdourahaman, said that law enforcement had issued a warning to the missionaries after observing “suspicious movements of jihadist militiamen right at the border with Burkina Faso.”

“The kidnappers came from Burkina-Faso,” Abdourahaman said, adding that security forces have since been “combing the area in efforts to find the missionary.”

According to the Society of African Missions, jihadist militants have their bases in a large forest across the border in Burkina Faso. The Catholic diocese of Niamey sent a group of priests to Father Maccalli’s village of to ascertain the facts and make contact with the local community.

Father Armanino said he believes the jihadists abducted Maccalli in an attempt to gain international notoriety.

“The kidnappers have achieved a first result,” Armanino said. “Everyone is talking about them all over the world,” which has given them “global visibility.”

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