• Five Abductors Killed In Gun Battle With Kidnappers
• Defence Headquarters Keeps Mum Over Operation
The Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) played a significant role in yesterday’s rescue of Philip Walton from his abductors, by a Naval Special Warfare group in the United States, better known as SEAL Team Six.
Walton, a 27-year-old American, was kidnapped in Niger Republic and held hostage in the country by his abductors before he was rescued in a neighbouring town in northern Nigeria.
New York Times, yesterday reported that, “Walton, the son of missionaries, lives with his wife and young daughter on a farm near Massalata, a small village close to the border with Nigeria. American and Nigerien officials had said that Mr. Walton was seized from his backyard on Monday in front of family members after assailants asked him for money. He offered them $40 and was then taken away by the gunmen on motorbikes, the officials said. The captors demanded nearly $1 million in ransom for Mr. Walton’s release.
“One American official said the assailants were criminals who intended to sell Mr. Walton to terrorist groups in the region. The operation was organized quickly with the assistance of officials in Niger and Nigeria, the official said,” the paper reported.
It added: “In the brief but intense firefight that ensued, all but one of the half-dozen or so kidnappers were killed. One captor escaped into the night. Mr. Walton was not harmed in the gun battle, and he walked out to a makeshift landing zone, where a U.S. helicopter whisked him to safety.
In a tweet, which had garnered over 128, 000 likes and over 31, 000 retweets, President Donald Trump, on his verified Twitter handle wrote: “Last night, our country’s brave warriors rescued an American hostage in Nigeria. Our nation salutes the courageous soldiers behind the daring night-time rescue operation, and celebrates the safe return of yet another American citizen!”
Trump added that the exercise was a “big win for our very elite U.S. Special Forces.”
The Chief Pentagon spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman, in volunteering further details of the exercise said the U.S. forces conducted the operation during the early hours of October 31, and Walton is “safe and is now in the care of the U.S. Department of State.”
The American Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, also praised the operation, adding that U.S. was committed to the safe return of all U.S. citizens taken captive.
A senior military officer, who spoke to The Guardian on condition of anonymity, explained that the rescue operation was carried out in collaboration with the MNJTF, which is a combined multinational formation, comprising units (mostly military) from Nigeria, Benin Republic, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger Republic.
The MJTF it is headquartered in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, and is mandated to bring an end to the Boko Haram insurgency. border.
As at press time, the Defence Headquarters was yet to comment on the covet operation.
Several calls made to the mobile phones of the Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Maj. Gen. John Enenche, by The Guardian, rang out without response. Text messages also sent to his phone were also not replied, or acknowledged.