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Presidential debate: Trump, Biden argue immigration policy
President Trump and former Vice President Biden disagree on the statistics regarding immigration reform.
WASHINGTON – American forces rescued a U.S. citizen kidnapped in the West African nation of Niger, the Pentagon said Saturday – an operation that was quickly touted by President Donald Trump on the campaign trail.
Philipe Nathan Walton was taken from his farm in Massalata in southern Niger Tuesday by armed kidnappers who demanded a ransom from the man’s father. U.S. forces freed Walton during an operation in neighboring Nigeria.
“This American citizen is safe and is now in the care of the U.S. Department of State,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement. “No U.S military personnel were injured during the operation.”
Trump used a campaign rally Saturday in Pennsylvania to tout the operation.
“Last night our brave special forces rescued an American hostage in a faraway country,” Trump told a crowd in Pennsylvania during the first of four rallies he has scheduled in the state Saturday. “The other side suffered greatly.”
SEAL Team 6, along with other members of a joint special operations force, conducted the rescue, according to the Associated Press and Fox News, who cited U.S. officials with knowledge of the operation.
Niger has faced a growing number of attacks by extremists linked to both the Islamic State group and to al-Qaida. The kidnapping comes two months after IS-linked militants killed six French aid workers and their Niger guide while they were visiting a wildlife park east of the capital.
A U.S. official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the rescue before an official announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press there were no solid indications that Walton’s kidnapping was terrorism-related and that it was instead “trending toward a kidnapping for ransom.”
But the official said the U.S. government was concerned that the hostage could be passed to another terrorist group, or that the kidnapping could become a prolonged hostage-taking.
Walton is now back in Niger.
Trump has repeatedly promoted his administration’s focus on securing the release of American hostages held by militant groups abroad as well as others being detained. Earlier this month, two Americans held captive by Iranian-backed militants in Yemen were released, along with a third person, in exchange for the return of about 250 of the Houthi rebels from Oman.
Contributing: The Associated Press