It was said the priest was abducted in September 2018. “If this information is true, it is heartening to know that he is alive.”
PRETORIA – An Italian priest, Pier Luigi Maccalli, who was kidnapped in Niger in September 2018 has been seen in a jihadist video, according to a newspaper report, in the first proof of life since his abduction.
The report in the Air Info newspaper, which did not release the 23-second video, was illustrated by a screenshot showing the 59-year-old Catholic priest wearing grey clothes and with a long white beard.
According to Business Standard publication, Thomas Codjovi, communications officer for the Catholic mission in Niger, said that until now they had no evidence that the priest was still alive.
“We recognised Luigi in the photo published by Air Info,” he told AFP, adding he had not seen the video.
“If this information is true, it is heartening to know that he is alive,” he said.
It was said the priest was abducted in September 2018 in the south-west village of Bamoanga, near the border with Burkina Faso, by armed men on motorcycles.
Niger, a large and poor country in West Africa, has become a target for recurring jihadist attacks from neighbouring Nigeria and especially in areas in the west that lie close to the border with Mali and Burkina Faso.
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reported that the number of sailors kidnapped off West Africa surged by more than 50% in 2019.
The broadcaster said in a story on its website that in December 2019 pirates had kidnapped 19 crew members from a Greek-owned crude-oil tanker off Nigeria.
The abductions were said to have taken place in the Gulf of Guinea, waters stretching thousands of kilometres from Angola in the south to Senegal in the north, which are considered among the world’s most dangerous for attacks.
There are still no new reports on the 19 crew members.
Al Jazeera said the number of crew snatched in the Gulf of Guinea jumped from 78 in 2018 to 121 in 2019, amounting to more than 90% of kidnappings reported at sea worldwide, according to the International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) annual piracy report.
– African News Agency