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Gunmen kidnap US national in Niger

Six gunmen on motorbikes have abducted an American man from his home in southern Niger Republic.

A Reuters report quoted a Nigeri police source as saying that the kidnappers, who were armed with AK-47 assault rifles, seized twenty-seven-year-old Philip Walton on the edge of a rural village on Tuesday at 00:45 GMT.

The source said Mr. Walton, a mango farmer and cattle-keeper, lived with his wife, daughter and brother in the village of Massalata, near the border with Nigeria.

The US State Department confirmed an American citizen had been abducted in Niger, but did not provide further details.

Niger Republic, like much of West Africa’s Sahel region, is battling with a worsening security crisis as groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State carry out attacks on the army and civilians, despite help from French and US forces.

In 2017, four US soldiers were killed in an ambush in Niger, sparking debate about America’s role in the sparsely populated West African region.

Mr. Walton is not known to work for the US government or any US-linked organisation.

He had only been in Massalata for less than a year.

According to a Nigeri security source, aircraft had been dispatched to search for the kidnappers.

In August this year, gunmen killed six French aid workers, a Nigeri guide and a driver in a giraffe reserve just 65 km from the capital Niamey.

Southern Niger is awash with attacks from Boko Haram militants based in neighbouring Nigeria.

At least six foreign hostages are so far being held by insurgents in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. Islamist militants are also known to have collected millions of dollars in ransom payments in recent years.

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