An Italian missionary priest Father Pier Luigi Maccalli who was kidnapped in Niger in September 2018 has been seen in a jihadist video, according to a newspaper report, in the first proof of life since his abduction in 2018.

The newspaper of the bishops reports that “as a further proof of life, we requested a freeze-frame of the video: the two hostages are sitting side by side. Maccalli on the left with dark glasses, his usual white and bushy beard, and a traditional dress”.

Responding, the Superior General of the SMA, Father Antonio Porcellato said, “The news that Father Pier Luigi Maccalli is alive fills us with joy and hope. However, we must all remain very cautious and careful. It is information that must be treated with extreme delicacy. In this moment of global health emergency, we continue to keep our faith firm, we continue to pray and wait with the hope that this Easter will bring Father Maccalli’s release as an immense gift”

On his part, the brother of Fr. Maccalli Father Walter Maccalli said  “It is great news and we are happy and we hope that everything can end well”,

“If this information is true, it is heartening to know that he is alive,” said Thomas Codjovi, communications officer for the Catholic mission in Niger.

The priest was kidnapped in September 2018 in the southwest village of Bamoanga, near the border with Burkina Faso, by armed men on motorcycles.

Niger, a large and poor country in West Africa, has become a target for recurring jihadist attacks from neighbouring Nigeria and especially in areas in the west that lie close to the border with Mali and Burkina Faso.