US special forces rescue abducted American in Nigeria, officials say
* Operation believed to have killed several captors of Philip Walton, 27, taken captive on Tuesday in Niger
* The United States is committed to the safe return of all US citizens taken captive. We delivered on that commitment late last night in Nigeria … We will never abandon any American taken hostage – Mike Pompeo
US special forces rescued an American citizen in an operation on Saturday in northern Nigeria that is believed to have killed several of his captors, US officials said.
Forces including US navy Seals rescued Philip Walton, 27, who was abducted on Tuesday from his home in neighboring southern Niger, two US officials said on condition of anonymity, adding that no US troops were hurt. A diplomatic source in Niger said Walton was now at the US ambassador’s residence in Niamey.
“Big win for our very elite US special forces today,” Donald Trump wrote on Twitter.
The Pentagon confirmed the operation but did not provide the identity of the hostage.
In a statement issued as he campaigned in Pennsylvania on Saturday afternoon, Trump said: “Last night, at my direction, the United States military conducted a successful operation to rescue an American hostage in Nigeria, kidnapped just 96 hours earlier. United States Special Forces executed a daring nighttime operation to rescue their fellow American with exceptional skill, precision and bravery … The former hostage is currently in good health and has been reunited with his family”.
The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said: “The United States is committed to the safe return of all US citizens taken captive. We delivered on that commitment late last night in Nigeria … We will never abandon any American taken hostage.”
Walton, who kept camels, sheep and poultry and grew mangoes near the border with Nigeria, was kidnapped by six men armed with 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. The perpetrators demanded money and searched the home before leaving with Walton.
Niger, like much of West Africa’s Sahel region, faces a deepening security crisis as groups with links to Al-Qaida and the Islamic State carry out attacks on the army and civilians, despite help from French and US forces.
Four US soldiers were killed in an ambush in Niger in 2017, sparking debate about the US role in the sparsely populated West African desert, 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 US government has frequently criticized other countries for paying.