“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.”
The U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six has rescued an American missionary who was kidnapped by an armed group last week in the West African nation of Nigeria, the Pentagon confirmed on Saturday.
U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6 led the overnight mission in northern Nigeria, where fighters loyal to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have established hideouts.
“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.” Jonathan Hoffman, the public affairs assistant to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, said in a statement.
“The United States will continue to protect our people and our interests anywhere in the world,” the statement said.
The hostage, Philipe Nathan Walton, 27, was taken from his farm in Massalata in southern Niger, on Tuesday. The assailants demanded more than $1 million from his family members, who are missionaries, according to The Washington Post.
An unnamed U.S. official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter told the newspaper that if the ransom was not paid, the captors threatened to turn Walton over to extremist groups in the region.
Northern Nigeria has become a foothold for some terrorist outfits, including groups like Boko Haram, the Islamic State West Africa Province and others who have made millions off abduction ransom payments in recent years.
Walton’s rescue was mentioned by Vice President Mike Pence as it comes days before Tuesday’s presidential election. Pence announced the rescue during a campaign stop in North Carolina.
Last night, US Special Forces rescued an American taken hostage in Nigeria. We are happy to report, the US citizen is safe and no military personnel were injured. The Armed Forces of the United States are the greatest force for good in the world! 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/QidiZpYmfi— Mike Pence (@Mike_Pence) October 31, 2020
“Last night, U.S. Navy Seals rescued an American taken captive in Niger just a couple of days ago,” he said. “That U.S. citizen is safe and no military personnel were injured in the operation. The armed forces of the United States of America are the greatest force for good in the history of the world.”
President Donald Trump has been outspoked about his administration’s successes in securing the release of other American hostages and prisoners in recent years — including North Carolina missionary Andrew Brunson in Turkey. Trump praised Walton’s release in a tweet.
“Last night, our Country’s brave warriors rescued an American hostage in Nigeria,” Trump wrote in a tweet. “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
Nigeria ranks as the 12th worst country in the world on Open Doors USA’s 2020 World Watch List of countries where Christians are most severely persecuted. Nigeria was in December, listed in the U.S. State Department’s special watch list of countries that tolerate or engage in severe violations of religious freedom due to the “lack of effective government response and the lack of judicial cases being brought forward in that country”