An American hostage is safe and in the care of the US State Department, the Pentagon said Saturday, after a successful early morning rescue operation by US special forces in northern Nigeria.
The hostage, Philip Nathan Walton, was abducted by armed kidnappers in southern Niger on Tuesday this week; his captors reportedly demanded a ransom of more than $1 million for his freedom. According to the Washington Post, Walton, 27, was rescued by members of the elite Seal Team 6.
No US troops were harmed in the rescue, and the New York Times reports that all but one of the kidnappers were killed.
President Donald Trump also celebrated Walton’s return, and used the rescue to burnish his foreign policy credentials at a campaign rally Saturday in Newton, Pennsylvania.
“We got our young man back, but the other side suffered gravely, I can tell you that,” Trump said. “We’ve gotten many hostages home. And I pay nothing, nothing. Can’t pay. Once you pay, you’ll have many many more.”
Recovering Americans captured abroad is a bright spot in Trump’s foreign policy record
Watson isn’t the only American to be kidnapped in West Africa in recent years; at least one other American, aid worker Jeffery Woodke, is believed to still be in Mali after a 2016 kidnapping in central Niger. But the US has recovered a number of hostages successfully during the Trump administration, including ones held in Yemen and North Korea.
These successes — much like the successful special-forces rescue of Walton in Nigeria — are precisely the kind of foreign policy victories Trump likes to highlight. His current national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, was the US special envoy for hostage affairs until 2019, and in August, the Republican National Convention prominently featured six Americans previously held hostage abroad in a conversation with Trump.