Catholic Priest Kidnapped in Mali
Father Pierluigi Maccalli of the Society of African Missions (SMA), an Italian Catholic priest has been kidnapped on monday 17 September, in Bomanga, southern Makalondi district, about 125 km (80 miles) from Niamey the capital of Niger.
Fr. Maccalli, a Priest of the Bomoanga Parish in the Niamey Diocese, has been working for over 10 years in the region and has been campaigning against female genital mutilation, a common practice in the region. And this “may be one of the reasons for the kidnapping, according to local sources,’’ Agenzia Fides said.
A statement on Tuesday, by Archbishop Laurent Lompo of Niamey confirmed that Father Pier Luigi Maccalli was attacked and abducted by “unidentified individuals.” Abdourahamane Zakaria, spokesman of the Nigérien government, and the Italian government have also confirmed the kidnapping.
An SMA source said the Maccalli was “probably taken across the border’’ to Burkina Faso where jihadist groups have set up bases.
The Italian embassy in Niamey, in a statement, has asked the Nigerien government to work at resolving the matter as quickly as possible and to avoid “initiatives that may put at risk Father Maccalli.’’
Walter, Maccalli’s brother who is also a priest and a missionary, said, “We wish with all our heart that everything will work out for the best. In some cases all you can do is pray and wait with hope’’.
The French, British and American troops have been fighting groups of Al Qaeda terrorists groups in the Sahel region as well as sects affiliated to ISIS. “What is worrying us in particular is a bigger capacity of these terrorist groups to act, especially near the three borders,” a French diplomatic source, told Reuters, referring to Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso.
The Sahel region, particularly Mali, Niger, Bukina Faso and Nigeria have become a haven for terrorists sects; Al Qaeda, ISIS and Boko Haram. This has been a major source of concern for the international community, particularly France, Britain and the US.
A Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report said Niger has now become “one of the world’s most strategic security hubs.” The US and France have drone Base in the region on reconnaissance missions following the developments and activities of the raising terrorist groups and threats in the region “to halt the migrant trail from West Africa toward the Mediterranean and combat the expansion of jihadist activity across the Sahel, the semiarid region south of the Sahara.” WSJ said.
The growing danger is obvious, not just the gathering of terrorist Islamic jihadi groups but also the expanse of land to be covered. “Across Niger’s western border with Mali, jihadist groups including Islamic State and al Qaeda franchises control stretches of territory around the northern city of Gao. Along the southern frontier with Nigeria, a rejuvenated Boko Haram is mounting intensifying attacks against security forces, including around the city of Diffa, where the U.S. has dozens of troops stationed. To the north lies Libya, which has become a hotbed of instability, weapons and radicalization.” The report said.
Hassan John is West Africa editor GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos