SAN FRANCISCO, October 31, (THEWILL) – The United States military, SEAL Team 6 on Saturday rescued an American citizen abducted last week in Niger.
President Donald Trump in a tweet called the rescue mission a “big win for our very elite U.S. Special Forces.”
The hostage, Philipe Nathan Walton was taken from his farm in Massalata in southern Niger early Tuesday morning by armed kidnappers.
A statement on Saturday by Pentagon Spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman said “U.S. forces conducted a hostage rescue operation during the early hours of 31 October in Northern Nigeria to recover an American citizen held hostage by a group of armed men. This American citizen is safe and is now in the care of the U.S. Department of State. No U.S military personnel were injured during the operation. We appreciate the support of our international partners in conducting this operation”, said Pentagon chief spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman.
“The high-risk U.S. military raid in Nigeria was undertaken by elite commandos as part of a major effort to free the U.S. citizen, Philip Walton, 27, before his abductors could get far after taking him captive in Niger on Oct. 26. The elite SEAL Team Six carried out a “precision” hostage rescue mission and killed all but one of the seven captors, according to officials with direct knowledge about the operation. They were all dead before they knew what happened”, the US counterterrorism official said.
The operation involved the “governments of the U.S., Niger and Nigeria working together to rescue Walton quickly. The CIA provided intelligence leading to Walton’s whereabouts and Marine Special Operations elements in Africa helped locate him”, a former U.S. official said.
The United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo “thanks the extraordinary courage and capabilities of our military, the support of our intelligence professionals, and our diplomatic efforts, the hostage will be reunited with his family. We will never abandon any American taken hostage.”
Walton was kidnapped from his backyard on Tuesday after assailants asked him for money. But he only offered $40 USD and was then taken away by force.
Walton lives with his wife and young daughter on a farm near Massalata, a small village close to the border with Nigeria.
Nigerien and American officials said they believed the captors were from an armed group from Nigeria and that it was not considered terror-related. But hostages are often sold to terrorist groups.
Another American Christian humanitarian aid worker, Jeffery Rey Woodke, 60, has been held hostage for the past four years since being kidnapped in northern Niger by armed militants.
Niger, home to 22 million people and three times the size of California, is one of many Sahel nations plagued by terrorism and instability, but its military has been a close U.S. partner in the fight against regional jihadist groups, including affiliates of both al Qaeda and ISIS.
Last week, a U.N.-backed donor summit raised $1.7 billion to support the region’s governments as Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the humanitarian crisis is at a “breaking point”, with 13.4 million people in need of assistance.