Two Chinese miners who were kidnapped in jihadist-torn Niger almost nine months ago have been released to neighbouring Burkina Faso.
China’s ambassador in Niamey, Jiang Feng, speaking on Niger television late Monday, expressed thanks from the government in Beijing for their freedom.
“The two Chinese hostages were released in Burkina Faso in February,” a Niger security source said, giving no further details.
The ambassador made the statement after meeting Niger president Mohamed Bazoum. The release “also reflects Niger’s great success in the fight against terrorism,” he said.
The two mining company employees were kidnapped on June 6 in Mbanga, a village in the southwestern region of Tillaberi that lies in a gold-rich area near Burkina Faso.
The so-called “three borders” zone between Burkina, Niger and Mali has been badly hit by jihadist groups linked to either al-Qaeda or the Islamic State.
At the time of the kidnapping, Tillaberi governor Tidjani Ibrahim Katiella said the Chinese had a licence to explore for gold and had already received warnings from armed groups to leave the area. The identity of the abductors was unknown.
China strengthened its economic ties with Niger in 2006 in uranium, gold and oil exploration.
In 2007, an employee of the China Nuclear Engineering and Construction Corporation conducting uranium exploration work in the north was abducted by a Tuareg rebel group, the Niger Movement for Justice. He was released after several days of negotiations.
- AFP, with additional editing by George Russell