US forces on Saturday October 31, rescued an American citizen taken hostage by armed men earlier this week in Niger and held in the northern part of the country.
The mission was undertaken by elite commandos as part of a major effort to free the U.S. citizen, Philip Walton, 27, before his abductors could get far after taking him captive in Niger on October 26, counterterrorism officials told ABC News.
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement;
“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 operation involved the governments of the U.S., Niger and Nigeria working together to rescue Walton quickly, sources said. The CIA provided intelligence leading to Walton’s whereabouts and Marine Special Operations elements in Africa helped locate him, a former U.S. official said.
U.S. and Nigerien officials had said that Walton was kidnapped from his backyard last Monday after assailants asked him for money. But he only offered $40 USD and was then taken away by force, according to sources in Niger. Walton lives with his wife and young daughter on a farm near Massalata, a small village close to the border with Nigeria.
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.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who also commented on the rescue mission, said the US citizen would be reunited with his family.
“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.”