Navy SEAL Team Six, famous for the raid against Osama bin Laden, rescued an American citizen on Friday night who was taken hostage earlier this week in the western African nation of Niger.
Philipe Nathan Walton, 27, was kidnapped by seven men on motorcyles in Massalata, Niger, on Oct. 26, according to two anonymous sources who spoke to ABC News. Walton was accosted by seven people who came up to him on his farm demanding money, and was taken away when he offered them only $40, U.S. and Nigerien officials said.
Officials also clarified that they did not believe the act was terror-related, but were worried that Walton might be sold by the armed Nigerian group to people associated with radical Islamists, as often happens.
Six of his seven kidnappers, who had demanded ransom from Walton’s father, were killed in a “precision” mission in neighboring Nigeria, officials said early on Saturday.
“They were all dead before they knew what happened,” a counterterrorism source said. No U.S. military personnel were harmed in the operation.
“Last night, our Country’s brave warriors rescued an American hostage in Nigeria,” President Donald Trump announced Saturday on Twitter. “Our Nation salutes the courageous soldiers behind the daring nighttime rescue operation and celebrates the safe return of yet another American citizen!”
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 31, 2020
“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,” Pentagon chief spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said. “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 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,” he added. “We will never abandon any American taken hostage.”
Eric Oehlerich, a retired Navy SEAL, told ABC News: “Men in these top-tier special forces units train their entire adult lives to be ready when called upon, hostage rescue operations are inherently dangerous. Those men put someone else’s life above their own, they do so selflessly….it’s an illustration of utter commitment.”
A U.S. State Department spokesperson told ABC: “When a U.S. citizen is missing, we work closely with local authorities as they carry out their search efforts, and we share information with families however we can.”
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