US Special Force Storms Nigeria, Rescues American Hostage Philip Walton
Nigerian government on Saturday collaborated in undertaking a high-risk U.S. military raid in Nigeria with the US Special Forces alongside Niger Republic operatives to rescue an American citizen abducted last week in Niger.
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, ABC News quoted counter-terrorism officials to have said.
Sources said the CIA provided intelligence leading to Walton’s whereabouts and Marine Special Operations elements in Africa helped locate him.
Then the elite SEAL Team Six carried out a “precision” hostage rescue mission and killed all but one of the seven captors, according to officials with direct knowledge about the operation.
“They were all dead before they knew what happened,” another counterterrorism source with knowledge told ABC News.
US president, Donald Trump, called the rescue mission a “big win for our very elite U.S. Special Forces” in a tweet and the Pentagon lauded the rescue mission 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,” said Pentagon chief spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman. “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.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was quoted to have said: “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.”
A former U.S. counterterrorism official emphasized generally how long the odds are for rescue in the “highly dangerous” missions — less than 30%. But the official said that it’s crucial to act as quickly as possible so that hostages don’t wind up in the hands of al Qaeda or ISIS.
“The longer a hostage is held the harder it is to find an exact location to be able and conduct a rescue operation,” the 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.
Nigerien and American officials told ABC News that they believed the captors were from an armed group from Nigeria and that it was not considered terror-related. But hostages are often sold to terrorist groups.
Concern grew quickly after the kidnapping that an opportunity to rescue Walton could become much more dangerous if he was taken by or sold to a group of Islamist militants aligned with either al Qaeda or ISIS and American special operations commanders felt they needed to act swiftly before that could occur, said one counterterrorism official briefed on the hostage recovery operations.
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