Armed assailants have abducted a US aid worker from outside his home in Niger, killing his bodyguard and a police officer before fleeing north toward neighboring Mali, a Niger government source tells CNN.
Witnesses to the kidnapping in Abalak described the abductors forcing the aid worker to strip down to his undergarments before putting him in their 4×4 vehicle, the source said.
The source said this was usual practice by terrorist groups trying to avoid hostages being tracked.
Authorities are taking all necessary measures to locate the American and his abductors, including imposing a heavy military presence between Abalak and the border with Mali, the source — who was not yet authorized to speak publicly — said.
It was the first time a foreigner had been kidnapped in the area, the government source said. There has been no claim of responsibility so far.
The US State Department said it was aware of reports of the kidnapping.
“The safety and security of US citizens overseas is among our highest priorities. We have no further information to offer at this time,” a spokesperson said.
The State Department warns against travel to Niger due to the threat from terrorist groups in the region.
“Terrorist groups have called for and executed attacks against countries that supported the intervention against terrorist groups in northern Mali, including Niger,” its advisory says.
Boko Haram is active in the country and there is also a threat from al Qaeda, it says.
“The terrorist organization Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has kidnapped Europeans in the region and continues to threaten to kidnap Westerners, including US citizens, in Niger,” the State Department warns.