An American citizen taken hostage by a group of armed men in Niger, Africa was rescued on Saturday according to the U.S. Government.
Johnathan Hoffman, the Chief Pentagon Spokesman, said in a statement early Saturday that “US forces conducted a hostage rescue operation” early Saturday in Nigeria to rescue an American citizen who was “held hostage by a group of armed men.
ABC News reported the American citizen was identified as 27-year-old Philip Walton who was abducted in Niger, West Africa on Monday. Officials told ABC and CNN that the US Navy’s elite SEAL Team Six carried out the mission and killed six out of the seven captors of Walton.
President Donald Trump praised the military members for the rescue operation. “Our Nation salutes the courageous soldiers behind the daring nighttime operation and celebrates the safe return of yet another American citizen!” he tweeted Saturday morning. —Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 31, 2020
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also thanked the US military and intelligence professionals for the American citizen’s return in a statement Saturday, in addition to tweeting out his praise for the military.
“The United States is committed to the safe return of all U.S. 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,” he said. “We will never abandon any American taken hostage,” he added. —Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) October 31, 2020
Though the armed kidnappers demanded a ransom from Walton’s father, a U.S. official told the outlet Saturday that there hadn’t been concrete indications the abduction was linked to terrorism, despite an increase in attacks by extremists in the country.
The incident, which occurred two months after militants connected to the Islamic State killed six French aid workers as well as their Niger guide, was “trending toward a kidnapping for ransom,” according to the official.
The American government had worried that Walton’s abduction could turn into a prolonged hostage or that he might be passed to another terrorist group, the official said, noting Walton is back in Nigeria and no ransom had been paid.