AFRICA - After years of silence, the video of a Romanian hostage kidnapped in the Sahel in 2015 emerges

Saturday, 6 May 2023

Rome (Agenzia Fides) - Recent evidence has emerged that shows that Iulian Ghergut, a Romanian citizen forcibly kidnapped by the jihadist group Al-Mourabitoun from a mine in Burkina Faso on April 4, 2015, is alive. Iulian's kidnapping was the first terrorist act in Burkinabé territory. It marked the beginning of a long cycle of violence that will lead to the collapse of the country. He is also the longest Western hostage held by terrorists in the Sahel.
"It's a miracle", sister Elvira emotionally declared to the French newspaper La Croix L'Hebdo. "I didn't recognize him, he looks so weak and so sad. I don't understand why they took so long to show us these photos", says Elvira, disappointed but relieved. "My brother's case has not been forgotten", but at the same time acknowledges that "the negotiations are difficult, and Romania does not have a diplomatic force in the Sahel region".
"We need a very strong political and economic commitment, we must pray a lot and hope that Iulian will soon be freed", added to Agenzia Fides Father Pier Luigi Maccalli, of the Society for African Missions, who was also kidnapped in the desert for nearly two years.
The Ghergut family had not heard from Iulian since 2018 and, after years of insistence with the Romanian authorities, she was finally received at the beginning of April 2023. According to reports, during this meeting they came across a video of Iulian alive, which dates back to December 2021.
At the time of the abduction, Iulian was 39 years old and worked as a security guard in a manganese mine. He was then taken to Mali, where traces of him end up being lost. "The only other hostage I saw was Romanian Iulian Ghergut," said Jeffery Woodke, an American aid worker kidnapped on April 21, 2016 in Niger and released on April 20, 2023 (see Fides, 21/3/2023), who now wants to do everything possible to help free the other hostages.
In addition, Elvira says she recently received a phone call from Woodke, who told her and her mother Cecilia of her determination to help them, but also of the need for the Romanian government to become more actively involved in the search for Iulian. "The past few weeks have given us hope," says Elvira, who is now waiting for the Romanian authorities to follow up on this lead.
The three-border area, which includes Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, has been a land of kidnappings at the hands of armed gangs for decades. Among the hostages released today are French journalist Olivier Dubois, released on March 20, 2021 along with Woodke, missionary Suellen Tennyson, released in August 2022, Sister Gloria Cecilia Narváez, released in October 2021, and missionary Father Pier Luigi Maccalli, released in October 2020. (GM/AP) (Agenzia Fides, 6/5/2023)