Chad Says U.S. missionary kidnapped by rebels
"The governor of the northern BET region has told me that an American priest has been kidnapped in the Tibesti (mountains) by remaining members of the MDJT rebel movement,"
By Betel Miarom
October 18, 2007 (Reuters) - A U.S. evangelical church missionary working on a U.S. government-backed development project in northern Chad has been kidnapped by rebels, Chadian and U.S. officials said on Thursday.
"The governor of the northern BET region has told me that an American priest has been kidnapped in the Tibesti (mountains) by remaining members of the MDJT rebel movement," Secretary of State for the Interior Abderamane Djasnabaille told Reuters.
"The rebels took his vehicle and they are holding him at Zoumri," he added.
A leader of Chad 's Evangelical Church , Pastor Ngardei Bako, identified the kidnapped American as Steve Godbold and said he had worked in Chad , especially Tibesti, for many years.
He said Godbold was seized earlier this month. Other people in his group were also abducted but later released, Bako said.
Djasnabaille said negotiations were under way with rebels of the Movement for Democracy and Justice in Chad (MDJT) to obtain the release of the kidnapped missionary.
A spokesman for the U.S. embassy in N'Djamena said Godbold had been "detained by a non-government armed group"
"We do not know the motive for the detention. We are in touch with Chad 's government and have requested their assistance in resolving the situation," he told Reuters.
SPEAKS THE LANGUAGE
Other U.S. officials, who asked not be identified, said Godbold was working as a sub-contractor on a U.S. government-financed development project to drill water wells in the Tibesti region.
"He was chosen because he knew the region and spoke the local Toubou language," one official said. Godbold had been able to contact his family, the U.S. officials said.
The MDJT was formed in 1998, when it launched an armed insurgency in northern Chad under the leadership of President Idriss Deby's former defense chief, Youssouf Togoimi.
It fought sporadic battles with government forces in the remote region, which has the highest mountains in the Sahara , before signing a peace deal in August 2005. A splinter faction of the group refused to sign.
Various rebel groups are waging a campaign against Deby further south on Chad 's eastern border with Sudan 's Darfur . Although the MDJT is not believed to have direct operational links with those groups, it has voiced support for them.