Official: Sierra Leone Diplomat Kidnapped In Nigeria Freed

The most sensational kidnapping in Nigeria's recent history saw 276 schoolgirls snatched from their classroom in the remote northeastern town of Chibok in April 2014 by Boko Haram jihadists. By Pius Utomi Ekpei (AFP/File)

Freetown (AFP) - A Sierra Leonean diplomat who was kidnapped in northern Nigeria has been freed, officials of both countries said Tuesday.

Alfred Nelson-Williams, Freetown's defence attache and deputy head of the country's mission in Abuja, was abducted last Friday while travelling to the northern city of Kaduna for a military passing-out parade.

"The diplomat has been reunited with the Sierra Leonean High Commissioner (ambassador) and his family," Nigeria's federal police spokesman Don Awunah said.

"We were able to locate where he was kept at about 1500 hours (1400 GMT). He is in sound health."

News of Nelson-Williams' release was also confirmed by Sierra Leone's Deputy Information Minister Cornelius Deveaux, who declined to give further details, adding only that it "was as a result of quiet diplomacy."

Sierra Leone had sent a special envoy to Abuja to act as an intermediary and open a line of communication between the kidnappers and the high commission, presidential spokesman Abdulai Baytraytay said on Monday.

President Ernest Bai Koroma was in "round-the-clock contact" with his Nigerian counterpart Muhammadu Buhari, he added.

Sierra Leonean government spokesman Ajibu Jalloh, speaking on national radio, said "Nelson-Williams was released together with his official Nigerian driver, Usaine Fulani, adding that "we still have not got all the facts".

He assured that the freed diplomat was "looking good and in high spirit for a man who has gone through a tough ordeal."

No ransom money was paid, he added.

Nelson-Williams's abduction was the first of a Sierra Leone diplomat anywhere in the world since the country gained independence in 1961, foreign ministry sources in Freetown said.

Kidnapping for ransom has long been a problem in Nigeria's oil-rich south, where wealthy locals and expatriate workers have been seized, only to be released after payment several days later.

But the phenomenon has now spread to the north of the country, with criminal gangs made up of suspected former cattle rustlers who have pushed into kidnapping after a military crackdown on the theft of herds.

In April a Nigerian army colonel, who was kidnapped from Kaduna and later found dead.

Kidnappings have increased since the middle of last year and more than 200 people are believed to have been abducted since January, a senior police source in the region told AFP in May.

But that is believed to be only a fraction of the true figure, as many abductions go unreported.

Source: AFP
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