An Italian priest working in Niger was abducted on Monday night from Bomanga, a village near the Burkina Faso border by unknown assailants. The kidnapping has been confirmed by both Italian and Nigerian officials, according to a report from Reuters. This latest incident is the second case of a foreign missionary being kidnapped from Niger in 2018.
The priest, Father Pier Luigi Maccalli, has been in Africa for the past 11 years, working for the Society of African Missions (SMA) in Bomanga. SMA is as “a Roman Catholic missionary organization,” according to a report from Reuters. According to Vatican News, Maccalli has worked previously in the Ivory Coast, and it is believed that a local nun was abducted along with the priest.
Italy’s embassy in the West African country has officially asked local officials for assistance in finding Maccalli.
Although no specific group has taken responsibility, several Islamic terror groups are known to operate in Niger and the surrounding countries throughout West Africa. Al Qaeda and ISIS both have a significant presence in the region, and Islamic terrorists have launched frequent attacks against civilians and peacekeeping forces.
“What is worrying us in particular is a bigger capacity of these terrorist groups to act, especially near the three borders,” said anonymous French diplomatic source during an interview with Reuters. The diplomat was speaking specifically of Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso.
The French military currently has more than 4,000 troops in Niger, and the United States also has forces in-country.