Alberta woman held hostage in Nigeria released

DRAYTON VALLEY— An Alberta woman kidnapped in Nigeria earlier this month has been released and is safe, her family and officials with Foreign Affairs announced Wednesday.

DRAYTON VALLEY— An Alberta woman kidnapped in Nigeria earlier this month has been released and is safe, her family and officials with Foreign Affairs announced Wednesday.

“It is with extreme emotion and intense relief that we are able to announce that Julie has now been released, held in safety, with protection until her return to Drayton Valley,” relatives of Julie Mulligan said in a statement.

A news release from Foreign Affairs said officials were “greatly relieved” at the development, adding she is now “safe with Canadian officials.”

“We are making sure that she received consular assistance and is able to be reunited with her family as soon as possible,” said the release.

Mulligan, 45, is a member of Rotary International who went to the West African country on April 15 with four others on a group study exchange program when she was taken hostage.

Family members including her husband, John Mulligan, said they wanted to “thank every person who said a prayer, spoke a kind word and worried for Julie’s safety … you will now forever be in our hearts to help whenever it may be required for whatever circumstance.”

There was some confusion over her status earlier Wednesday. At first, reports out of Nigeria quoted a police spokesman as saying that Mulligan was released by her captors and was safe.

Police spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu later said that one man had been arrested in relation to Mulligan’s kidnapping but said she was still being held by others.

However, the outcome was clear when Mulligan phoned home from a police station in Kaduna, said family friend Alex Blais.

“We are so happy,” Blais told Drayton Valley radio station CIBW.

“We talked to her … at the police station in the town (in) Nigeria where she was kidnapped and she was safe.”

He said no ransom was paid, adding he had no details on how she was let go.

A tired-sounding John Mulligan told CIBW how the phone call with his wife went.

“Julie said, ‘John’, and I said, ‘Julie’, and she said, ‘I’m OK’ and I said, ‘where are you?’ ”

He said she told him she was with police.

“I said, ‘where are you?’ and she said, ‘I don’t know.’ She asked somebody and she said, ‘I’m in Kaduna, I’m fine, I need to get back to you.’ ”

The Edmonton Sun reported that friends and family were shouting and cheering inside the Mulligan home following that conversation, and that there were plans to open a bottle of champagne.

Mulligan’s family also thanked people for holding prayer vigils.

“Not only have the citizens prayed but they have supplied our home with food and flowers and cards to let us know of all the positive thoughts.”

While kidnapping for ransom is common in the southern Niger Delta oil region, it’s extremely rare in the heavily Muslim northern part of the country.