by WorldTribune Staff, November 1, 2020
An American take hostage in Nigeria was rescued in a daring operation by SEAL Team 6, Pentagon officials announced on Saturday.
Six militants were killed and one captured as SEAL Team 6 secured the freedom of Philipe Nathan Walton.
President Donald Trump tweeted on Sunday: “Last night, our Country’s brave warriors rescued an American hostage in Nigeria. Our Nation salutes the courageous soldiers behind the daring nighttime rescue operation and celebrates the safe return of yet another American citizen!”
The 27-year-old Walton was kidnapped from his home in southern Niger on Tuesday, according to two unnamed sources in a report from The Guardian.
Six men on motorcycles armed with assault rifles abducted Walton, brought him to northern Nigeria, and demanded money for his release.
“They were all dead before they knew what happened,” a counterterrorism source with knowledge of the rescue told ABC News. No U.S. soldiers were injured during the mission conducted by the same SEAL squad famous for killing Osama bin Laden.
Nigerian and American officials told ABC News that 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.
Kidnappings have become more frequent in West Africa. Al Qaida and the Islamic State (ISIS) have taken hostages, or paid others to abduct people, and then seek millions in ransom payments. The United States government has criticized other countries for paying the ransoms. No ransom was paid in Walton’s case.
“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,” said Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman in a media release. “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.”
Walton is being held at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Niamey, according to The Guardian.
“The United States is committed to the safe return of all U.S. citizens taken captive,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. “We delivered on that commitment late last night in Nigeria, where some of our bravest and most skilled warriors rescued a U.S. citizen after a group of armed men took him hostage across the border in Niger.”
“Thanks to 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,” Pompeo added. “We will never abandon any American taken hostage.”