United States military has rescued an American citizen taken hostage in Niger Republic and held hostage in Nigeria by a group of armed men.
A statement by the US secretary of state Mike Pompeo on Saturday said a group of armed men took the American citizen hostage across the border in Niger.
Pompeo commended the “extraordinary courage and capabilities of our military”, adding that the US was committed to the safe return of all its citizens taken captive and would never abandon any American taken hostage.
“The United States is committed to the safe return of all U.S. citizens taken captive. We delivered on that commitment late last night in Nigeria, where some of our bravest and most skilled warriors rescued a U.S. citizen after a group of armed men took him hostage across the border in Niger.
‘Thanks to the extraordinary courage and capabilities of our military, the support of our intelligence professionals, and our diplomatic efforts, the hostage will be reunited with his family. We will never abandon any American taken hostage,” he said.
A statement by Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said, “US 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.
“We appreciate the support of our international partners in conducting this operation. The United States will continue to protect our people and our interests anywhere in the world.”
Though the rescued American was not been named officially, he is believed to be 27-year-old Philip Nathan Watson.
According to CNN, the rescued American citizen was taken hostage by armed men earlier this week in Niger and held in northern Nigeria.
Quoting a US official with knowledge of the operation, CNN reports that the mission, which lasted several hours, was conducted by the Navy’s elite SEAL Team 6 flown to the region by Air Force special operations.
The report said the official disclosed that the US forces which conducted the mission killed six of the seven captors, adding that US believes the captors have no known affiliation with any terror groups operating in the region, and were more likely bandits seeking money.
“The governor of the local region where the abduction took place was quoted in various local media and by French media reporting from Niger as saying that six men on motorbikes armed with AK-47s came to the man’s property in the village of Massalata, close to the border with Nigeria.
“The governor, Abdourahamane Moussa, told these media outlets that after demanding money, the men took the American citizen with them in the direction of the Nigerian border,” CNN further reported.
“This American citizen is safe and is now in the care of the U.S. Department of State,” Washington Post quoted Jonathan Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defence for public affairs.
Hoffman added that, “The United States will continue to protect our people and our interests anywhere in the world.”
Washington Post also quoted a US official, who did not want to be named, disclosing that, “the assailants forced Philip Nathan Watson, 27, from his farm in remote Massalata on Tuesday, demanding more than $1 million from his family members, who are missionaries.”
The assailants were said to have threatened to sell the captive to extremists.
Shortly after news of the rescue broke, President Donald Trump took to his Twitter handle to celebrate, saluting “the courageous soldiers behind the daring nighttime rescue operation”.
“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!”, the post reads.
“I want to thank the Special Forces. We had a tremendous event happen and really these are incredible people that do this,” said Trump adding that more details about the mission would be shared in “a very short period of time.”
However, within minutes, the tweet attracted thousands of reactions with the president’s critics slamming him for allegedly failing to save over 230,000 American lives so far claimed by COVID-19.
“Brave indeed. They volunteered to fight for their country,” replied a follower by the name, Vote Trump Out.
“Shame you couldn’t have saved 200, 000 plus lives while you were tweeting,” the follower with the handle @MattTavner, added.
Another critic, Limey McLimeface using the handle @mclimeface, suggested that Trump didn’t know about the operation until the media reported it.
“Took you until now to mention it, you probably only just heard of it, because you’re too busy on your farewell tour, you haven’t done any work in weeks,” McLimeface said.
An American psychologist, Jeffrey Guterman, using the verified account, @JefferyGuterman, called the president “a mass murderer” for spreading the virus with his non-socially-distant campaign rallies.
Guterman shared a Stanford University study, which concluded that 18 rallies addressed by Trump resulted in no fewer than 30,000 “incremental confirmed cases of COVID-19.”