KANO, NIGERIA – Charity group Action Against Hunger on Thursday demanded the release of six aid workers kidnapped in northeast Nigeria and held by jihadis aligned to the Islamic State group.
The Paris-based charity said a staff member, two drivers and three health workers for one of its projects were in a hostage video released by the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) group.
The video showed the female staff member, dressed in a bright blue hijab, sitting on the floor and addressing the camera in English, with her five male colleagues behind her.
The six were seized during an ambush on their convoy close to the border with Niger last Thursday in an attack that left another driver dead.
Garba Shehu, a spokesman for Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, said the authorities were in contact with the captors who were known from previous similar incidents.
“What this latest incident has done is to bring urgency to the efforts that the secret service is making,” he said in a tweet.
The “government is making contacts in the hope that the captors will see reason to not visit hardship or even harm on these innocent individuals.”
The kidnapping is the latest to target aid workers in the conflict-hit region after the abduction and killing of two female workers for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) last year.
Action Against Hunger said in a statement it “demands the liberation of its staff member and her colleagues.
“These are humanitarian workers who chose to devote their lives to helping the most vulnerable communities in Nigeria and they are only motivated by the values of solidarity, humanity and neutrality,” it added.
The footage of the abductees, authenticated by AFP on Thursday, was released through the same channel as previous videos from the IS-affiliated jihadis.
The hostages are believed to be held in an ISWAP enclave on the shores of Lake Chad.
Villagers told AFP the kidnapped aid workers were seen with their armed captors passing through the villages of Chamba and Gatafo on the day of their abduction.
ISWAP is a splinter group of jihadi group Boko Haram that swore allegiance in 2016 to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
It has repeatedly attacked military bases and targeted aid workers in northeast Nigeria.
ICRC workers Hauwa Liman and Saifura Khorsa were murdered by ISWAP last year and a woman working for the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF is still held by the group.
The jihadis are also holding 15-year-old Leah Sharibu, the last remaining captive of over 100 schoolgirls kidnapped by jihadists in Dapchi Town, Yobe State, last February.
The only Christian among the hostages, she remains in captivity months after all the other girls were released because she refused to convert to Islam.
Boko Haram’s decade-long conflict has killed 27,000 people and displaced about 2 million from their homes in northeast Nigeria.
The violence has spread to nearby Niger, Chad and Cameroon, with the affected countries forming a regional military coalition to fight the group.
Boko Haram fighters have abducted huge numbers of women and children across the region.
The group drew worldwide attention with the kidnapping of 276 girls from a school in Chibok in 2014.