An American oil worker held captive for 18 months in Yemen was released with the help of the United Arab Emirates, the Trump administration said today.
Danny Burch, 63, a Louisiana native, moved to Yemen in the early 2000s, married a Yemeni woman and had three children there. In September 2017, he was abducted by armed gunmen while traveling in a vehicle in Sana’a.
What happened to him after that is unclear. Burch was held by Houthi rebels, and in January 2018 Reuters reported that Burch had been released to Oman on a flight that included a senior Houthi leader. President Trump said today that Burch “has been held hostage in Yemen for 18 months” and “has been recovered and reunited with his wife and children.”
The State Department told CBS it couldn’t comment on the Oman report, citing family privacy about the case.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed the “recovery” of Burch from Yemen in a statement, expressing “our deep gratitude to the United Arab Emirates, its people, and its leadership in facilitating the release of Mr. Burch.”
“I applaud the innumerable lines of effort from across the U.S. government to enable this effort, to include the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert O’Brien, U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi, and the Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell,” he said. “These efforts reflect the best of what America and its partners can accomplish.”
Pompeo said Burch “is safe and secure, and is reunited with his wife and children” while “the family has asked for privacy as they recover from this ordeal.”
“The safety and well-being of Americans remains one of the highest priorities of the Trump administration,” he added.
“We work every day to bring Americans home,” Trump said in his statement. “We maintain constant and intensive diplomatic, intelligence, and law enforcement cooperation within the United States government and with our foreign partners. Recovering American hostages is a priority of my administration.”
Current U.S. hostages include Bob Levinson (the longest-held hostage in U.S. history), Baquer & Siamak Namazi, Nizar Zakka, Xiyue Wang, Karan Vafadari, Morad Tahbaz, and Robin Shahini in Iran; Austin Tice in Syria; Serkan Gölge in Turkey; Kevin King and Paul Overby in Afghanistan; and Jeffery Woodke in Niger.
Burch’s brother, Ronald, told KLTV-News shortly after the kidnapping that “his wife’s there, he’s got three children there, and I think even if he gets released, he’ll stay.”