Video Released of Kidnapped Aid Workers in Nigeria

The Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of six aid workers in northeast Nigeria after a video emerged on July 24. An international charity said that a female staff member and five local drivers and health workers were kidnapped during an attack near the town of Damasak. Action Against Hunger said that the aid workers had appeared in the video and were “apparently in a good condition of health.” ISWAP, which split from the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram in 2016, claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, SITE Intelligence reported.

Action Against Hunger said that a convoy of vehicles carrying the air workers was attacked on the road to Damasak, Borno State on July 18. One of the drivers was killed in the attack, while the staff member and five aid workers were missing.

“We express our deepest condolences to the family of our driver and we extend our support to the family of our missing colleagues as well as others affected by this incident,” the aid group said in a statement. The video allegedly featuring the six aid workers abducted was published by The Cable, a Nigerian news organization. In the video, a woman wearing a blue hijab is seen surrounded by five men, believed to be her colleagues, Reuters reported. A sheet with the logo of the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR hangs behind them.

The female aid worker, speaking English, said in the video that her name is Grace. “We were caught by this army called the Calipha,” Grace said, before urging Action Against Hunger and the Nigerian government to secure their release. “We don’t know where we are.” She continued: “Some aid workers were caught and also asked to be released but because Nigeria did not do anything about it, they were killed. I am begging on behalf of all of us here, that please Nigerians should not allow such to happen to us.”

All six abductees are Nigerians, Al Jazeera reported. Villagers from Chamba and Gatafo, southwest of Damask, told Agence France-Press (AFP) that the air workers were seen with their captors the day of their abduction passing through the villages. They are believed to be held at a military enclave by the shore of Lake Chad. Last year, two female aid workers with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were murdered by ISWAP. A UNICEF aid worker is currently being held hostage by the extremist group. More than 27,000 people have been killed and another 2 million have been displaced due to extremist fighters in Nigeria since 2009, according to Al Jazeera.

On July 25, Action Against Hunger requested the release of its staff member and five colleagues. “They are humanitarians and health workers and they chose to dedicate their lives to support the most vulnerable communities in Nigeria. They were only in pursuit of solidarity, humanity and neutrality,” the Paris-based aid organization said in a statement. “All Action Against Hunger teams and staff express their full support and comfort to our colleague and to her companions who are being detained, as well as to their families and friends,” the group added. Rita Katz, director of SITE, questioned whether ISWAP was truly behind the kidnapping. In a series of tweets, Katz noted that the video’s style was vastly different than others released by the Islamic State. She noted that the video shows a woman’s face “something ISIS strictly forbids” and was not released though its ISWAP or Amaq News Agency.

1) A lot of things aren’t adding up with this video of kidnapped aid workers in #Nigeria. The following thread will analyze its peculiarities and give potential explanations.https://t.co/pcgjnW5mDg

— Rita Katz (@Rita_Katz) July 26, 2019

“All of these factors considered, it is likely that Boko Haram—not ISIS’ West Africa Province—captured these aid workers,” Katz wrote. “However, still has yet to be confirmed.”

The Nigerian presidency said the government was working to negotiate the release of the six aid workers kidnapped, Reuters reported. The latest kidnapping has highlighted concerns surrounding the safety of humanitarian aid workers. “These acts of violence affect the very individuals, families, and communities that we support, and deprive vulnerable people of vital services,” Edward Kallon, a UN Humanitarian coordinator, told The National.


About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.