An American aid worker was kidnapped late Friday by an unknown group of assailants in Niger, the U.S. Embassy in Niger and a U.S.-based humanitarian organization said Saturday.
The worker, with 29 years of experience in Niger, was taken from his home in Abalak in the west-central part of the country, said Pete Thompson, spokesman for Youth With A Mission, a Wisconsin-based Christian missionary organization.
The man, whose name is not being released yet, worked with the group's local affiliate JEMED, he added. It is not known where the worker has been taken and no group has claimed responsibility for the abduction, Thompson said.
The embassy advised U.S. citizens in the country that the threat of kidnapping and hostage taking "continues to be very high" and cautioned them to take "appropriate security precautions," it said in a statement. The embassy did not identify the hostage or elaborate on the incident except to say that it took place in Niger's Tahoua region, near Mali.
Gov. Daouda Maiga, governor of Mali’s Menaka region bordering Niger, said earlier that several armed men burst into the aid worker’s house and took him after killing two people at the scene, the Associated Press reports.
CNN quotes a government source as saying the aid worker was abducted outside his home by armed assailants who killed his bodyguard and a police officer before fleeing toward neighboring Mali.
The source tells CNN that witnesses say the worker was forced to strip down to his underwear before being putting into a 4x4 vehicle. Such measures are often taken by kidnappers to avoid hostages being tracked.
It was not immediately clear who may have been behind the abduction. While the al-Qaeda terrorist organization has long abducted foreigners and criminals also stage kidnappings for random in the vast Sahel region, Friday night’s abduction is believed to be the first time an American has been taken.