The United States’ SEAL Team 6 has rescued Philip Walton, 27, who was kidnapped earlier this week in Niger and held hostage in northern Nigeria.
Walton, who kept camels, sheep and poultry and grew mangoes near the border with Nigeria, was kidnapped on Tuesday by six men armed with AK-47 assault rifles who arrived on motorcycles at his home in southern Niger’s Massalata village early on Tuesday.
His wife, young daughter and brother were left behind.
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman in a statement on Saturday 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. The United States will continue to protect our people and our interests anywhere in the world.”
The mission, which was several hours long, was conducted by the Navy’s elite SEAL Team 6 who were flown to the region by Air Force special operations, a US official with knowledge of the operation told CNN.
The US forces who conducted the mission killed six of the seven captors, the official said.
The US believes the captors have no known affiliation with any terror groups operating in the region and were more likely bandits seeking money.
Niger, like much of West Africa’s Sahel region, faces a deepening security crisis as groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State carry out attacks on the army and civilians, despite help from French and U.S. forces.
Four U.S. soldiers were killed in an ambush in Niger in 2017, sparking debate about the United States’ role in the sparsely populated West African desert that is home to some of the world’s poorest countries.
At least six foreign hostages are being held by Islamist insurgents in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. Islamists have collected millions of dollars in ransom payments in recent years. The U.S. government has frequently criticized other countries for paying.
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