An American living in Niger named Phillip Walton, who was abducted last week from his farm, was rescued in dramatic fashion by U.S. special forces. The textbook raid went off like clockwork, killing six of the seven captors who “were all dead before they knew what happened,” according to one source.
While the armed attackers apparently didn’t belong to an organized terrorist group, it’s believed that the group holding Walton was preparing to sell him to terrorists.
The abduction occurred near a small village a few miles from the border with Nigeria. Niger, Nigerian, and U.S. armed forces all participated in the operation.
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.
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.
The president expressed his congratulations for the rescue.
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.”
The mission to rescue Walton was a high-risk, high-reward endeavor with a lot of moving parts and, as even the SEALs will tell us, not without a little luck. Hostage rescue experts give this kind of mission a very low chance of success.
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.
Niger is a close U.S. ally and has been assisting our forces in combatting terrorists in the region belonging to ISIS and al-Qaeda. But there’s another American who has been held for four years in Niger. Christian humanitarian aid worker Jeffery Rey Woodke, 60, was kidnapped in northern Niger four years ago and has not been heard from.