US forces rescue American kidnapped in Niger | Niger
Philipe Nathan Walton was picked up from his farm in Massalata in southern Niger by armed kidnappers demanding a ransom.
A US citizen kidnapped in Niger last week was rescued during a US military operation in neighboring Nigeria, according to US officials.
Philipe Nathan Walton was picked up from his farm in the village of Massalata in southern Niger early Tuesday morning by armed men demanding a ransom from the man’s father.
The U.S. Department of Defense confirmed the military operation on Saturday, saying it took place in northern Nigeria.
“This American citizen is safe and is now in the custody of the US State Department. No US military personnel were injured during the operation, ”the department said in a statement.
President Donald Trump said in a tweet it was “a huge win for our elite US special forces today,” and details would be released later.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement: “Thanks to the extraordinary courage and skills of our military, the support of our intelligence agents, and our diplomatic efforts, the hostage will be reunited with his family.”
Walton, who raised camels, sheep and poultry and grew mangoes near the Nigerian border, was kidnapped by six men armed with AK-47 assault rifles who arrived at his home on motorcycles.
His wife, young daughter, and brother were left behind.
Reuters news agency reported that the perpetrators appeared to be of the Fulani ethnic group and spoke Hausa and some English.
Niger is facing a growing number of attacks from armed groups linked to ISIL (ISIS) and Al Qaeda.
The kidnapping comes two months after ISIL fighters killed six French helpers and their Niger guide while visiting a wildlife park east of the capital Niamey.
A US official, who prior to an official announcement was not empowered to publicly discuss the rescue and spoke on condition of anonymity, said there was no solid evidence that Walton’s abduction was linked to terrorism and instead “to one.” Kidnapping for ransom tend “. .
However, the official said the US government was concerned that the hostage could be transferred to another armed group or that the kidnapping could turn into a prolonged hostage situation.
A local government official, Ibrahim Abba Lele, a prefect in the city of Birni-N’Konni, told The Associated Press earlier this week that the kidnappers were demanding ransom and ransom from Walton’s father, who lives about 1 km away his son’s farm.
According to the US official, no ransom was paid.