In the early morning hours of Saturday, October 31, Navy SEALs rescued an American hostage in Northern Nigeria.
Operators from SEAL Team 6 rescued Philipe Nathan Walton, an American farmer living in Niger. The assault force suffered no casualties, while all but one of the captors were killed, according to ABC News, which broke the story.
Walton had been kidnapped from his farm in nearby Niger last week. The captors demanded a ransom to release the American and moved him to Nigeria.
Sandboxx News has learned that policymakers chose SEAL Team 6 for this mission because, at the time, it had more assets available than Delta Force, its Army sister unit.
According to the military aircraft tracking account Aircraft Spots, the mission involved a considerable number of aircraft. All in all, the task force used several C-17 Globemaster transports, 11 KC-135R Stratotankers, four MC-130J Commando II transports, four CV-22 Osprey helicopters, one AC 130J Ghostrider gunship, and one P8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft. The first portion of the task force launched from Naval Air Station Rota, in Spain, while the assault force launched from Niger.
Jonathan Hoffman, the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, said in a press release that:
“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. 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.”
According to U.S. counterterrorism officials, the men who had taken Walton hostage were not terrorists but rather criminals. However, there was a very strong possibility that they might attempt to sell Walton to one of the terrorist groups infesting the area. That looming danger triggered the hostage rescue operation.
And it wouldn’t be the first time. Back in 2019, French commandos from the elite Commando Hubert, the French equivalent to SEAL Team 6, had conducted a similar hostage rescue operation in Burkina Faso. Then, a small terrorist group had taken four men hostage, including an American, and were on their way to Mali to sell them to a more radical group. The French commandos struck and freed the hostages; they lost, however, two operators.
SEAL Team 6 has been quite active in East Africa. In 2009, they rescued Captain Richard Phillips in the nearby Gulf of Aden and conducted a counterterrorism raid in Somalia. In 2012, they rescued two aid workers, including one American, in Somalia. And in 2013, they conducted an unsuccessful high-value target (HVT) raid again in Somalia.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised the task force and highlighted that America would never stop from getting its citizens back.
“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,” added Hoffman.
Niger and Nigeria helped the task force and enabled the successful operation.