In Niger, the abduction of an Italian priest in the southwest of the country has left the communities he served for 11 years in shock and sorrow.
Fr. Pier Luigi Maccalli, 57, was kidnapped by unknown armed men on Monday night in his parish of Bamoanga, about 125km from the capital Niamey.
According to local sources, eight armed men on motorbikes entered the parish at about 9pm. They attacked and kidnapped the priest in his bedroom, before heading off with him towards the border of Burkina Faso.
The armed men also kidnapped two nuns, members of the Franciscan Missionaries of Marie, but World Watch Monitor has learned that they managed to escape during the attack. Another foreign priest, from Indian origin, who was also in the parish during the attack, is also safe.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but according to security sources in Niger the assailants might have taken their hostage to Kogega, a forest that serves as a base alongside the Niger-Burkina border.
In recent weeks attacks carried out by jihadist militiamen in neighbouring Burkina have claimed the lives of a number of soldiers, prompting a military response, including aerial bombardment, in the region (eastern Burkina).
Fr. Maccalli is originally from the diocese of Crem in Italy and is a member of the Society of African Missions (SAM). He had served previously in the Ivory Coast for several years. He is the first Catholic priest kidnapped in Niger but the third Westerner detained by armed men in recent years.