Italian missionary priest kidnapped in Niger

Italian missionary priest kidnapped in Niger Fr Pierluigi Maccalli

A Catholic priest has been kidnapped in Niger, near the border with Burkina Faso.

Italian Fr Pierluigi Maccalli, a member of the Society of African Missions, was taken last week after suspected Islamist gunmen attacked his rectory in the village of Bamoanga.

“The kidnapping happened at around 9pm. According to local residents, about eight men arrived on motorbikes, broke into his house opposite the church and forced him to go with them. They returned 10 minutes later, firing into the air to frighten people,” said Church spokesperson Thomas Codjovi. “There were also nuns there, but he was the only one they wanted to kidnap.”

Fr Mauro Armanino, who escaped from the attack, said the priest was probably taken by jihadists coming in from Burkina Faso.

Niger’s government spokesperson, Zakaria Abdourahaman, said he had no doubt about the origin of the attackers.

“The kidnappers came from Burkina-Faso,” he said, noting that security forces have since been “combing the area in efforts to find the missionary”.


Abdourahaman said police had warned the religious congregation against staying in the area after registering “suspicious movements of jihadist militiamen right at the border with Burkina Faso”.

Refusing to leave their mission, the missionaries instead limited their travels and didn’t leave their homes at night.

“In the neighbouring region of Burkina Faso there is, in fact, a vast forest in which the jihadist militants have their bases.

“Currently the diocese of Niamey has sent a group of priests to the village of Fr Maccalli to verify the facts and to make contact with the local community,” said a statement from the Society of African Missions.

Armanino said he thinks the group that took Maccalli may have been seeking international recognition for their actions.