US forces free American hostage in Nigeria

NIAMEY (AFP) – United States (US) military forces rescued an American citizen in Nigeria, the Pentagon said last Saturday, days after he was kidnapped by gunmen in the south of neighbouring Niger and apparently taken across the border.

The hostage, Philip Walton, was abducted last Monday night on the outskirts of Massalata, a village about 10 kilometres from the border with Nigeria.

Walton is safe and in the care of the US State Department, the Pentagon said in a statement. US forces did not suffer any casualties in the rescue operation, it added.

“The US is committed to the safe return of all US citizens taken captive,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a separate statement.

“We delivered on that commitment late last night in Nigeria, where some of our bravest and most skilled warriors rescued a US citizen,” he said.

US President Donald Trump hailed the rescue operation.

“Big win for our very elite US Special Forces today. Details to follow!,” he tweeted.

Niger’s Defence Minister Issoufou Katambe had earlier confirmed the hostage release to AFP without giving details about how he had been freed.

Local officials had said this week that the kidnappers had called the man’s father to demand a ransom, though the family did not confirm this.

Walton had been living in Massalata with his wife and child for two years, according to his father, who himself has been in Niger for nearly 30 years.