An American citizen who was abducted last week in Niger has been rescued during in a daring U.S. military raid in neighboring Nigeria, ABC News reported citing officials.
According to the report, the U.S. citizen, identified as Philip Walton (27), was taken captive in Niger on Oct. 26 and rescued in a mission undertaken by the U.S. special operation forces assigned to the Navy’s elite SEAL Team Six.
The report said that the operation involved the governments of the U.S., Niger and Nigeria working together to rescue Walton quickly, sources said. The report added that the SEAL Team Six operators killed all but one of the captors during the daring operation.
According to U.S. and Nigerien officials, Walton was kidnapped from his backyard last Monday after six assailants armed with AK-47-type assault rifles asked him for money and he only offered an equivalent to between $35 and $40 in Nigerien francs. Walton lives with his wife and young daughter on a farm near Massalata, a small village loacated less than five miles north of the border with Nigeria and just over 200 miles east of the Nigerien capital Niamey.
According to reports, the American citizen wasn’t employed with any of the U.S. government institutions or any other organization with ties to the United States.
The captors were believed to be from an armed group from Nigeria that was not considered terror-related. But hostages are often sold to terrorist groups such as those linked with al Qaeda or ISIS, in which case a rescue operation will become much more dangerous. This made the officials to conduct the operation quickly.
According to a report in The War Zone, the rescue operation involved multiple special operations and aerial refueling aircraft which were all forward deployed to Naval Station Rota, Spain. All of the aircraft reportedly flew south over Africa down to a task area near Niger/Nigeria.
These included four Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) MC-130J Commando II multi-mission combat transport/special operations tankers, four CV-22 Osprey special operations tiltrotor aircraft, one AC-130J Ghostrider gunship, one U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft, and 11 U.S. Air Force KC-135R Stratotanker aerial refueling tanker aircraft.
U.S. President Donald Trump confirmed the operation via a Twitter statement adding that details of the mission will be released later.
“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!”, he said in another statement.
U.S. Secretary of state Mike Pompeo called the rescue operation “outstanding”.
Statement from Jonathan Hoffman, Chief Pentagon Spokesperson.
“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. State Department. No U.S. military personnel were injured during the operation. We appreciate the support of our international partners in conducting this operation.”
The U.S. Sate Department’s official statement on the rescue mission:
“United States is committed to the safe return of all US citizens taken captive. We delivered on that commitment late last night in Nigeria, where some of our bravest and most skilled warriors rescued a US 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.
We will never abandon any American taken hostage.”
Niger, home to 22 million people and three times the size of California, is one of many Sahel nations plagued by terrorism and instability. According to the ABC report, 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.
Terrorists of Islamic State-linked group, Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), had killed at least four US military personnel and four Nigerien defense forces troops in the Greater Sahara in 2017 as they attempted to capture the group’s leader Doundou Chefou.