On October 31st, 2020, U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6 (DEVGRU) executed a successful rescue operation in Northern Nigeria to retrieve an American citizen, Philip Walton, who had been taken, hostage. The operation demonstrated the capability and expertise of the U.S. Special Operations Forces.
On October 26th, 2020, Philip Walton, a 27-year-old resident of Massalata, a small village near the border of Niger and Nigeria, was abducted from his home. Walton, known to raise camels, sheep, and poultry, and cultivate mangoes in the area, was taken by a group of six armed men on motorcycles.
U.S. intelligence services were able to track down his whereabouts in Northern Nigeria. Upon receiving this information, the President of the United States authorized the deployment of elite U.S. Special Operations Forces to rescue Walton. The decision to proceed with the operation was difficult, but ultimately, the safety and well-being of American citizens were a top priority.
According to sources, it is believed that the kidnappers’ intention was to either demand a ransom or sell Walton to one of the many terrorist organizations active in Nigeria.
Rescue of Philip Walton
The successful rescue of Philip Walton resulted from the collaborative efforts of the United States, Niger, and Nigeria governments. Acting swiftly, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) provided crucial intelligence that led to the discovery of Walton’s location. The expertise of Marine Special Operations elements in Africa was also utilized in the search.
The elite SEAL Team 6 was selected to carry out the operation as they are specifically responsible for operations in West Africa. This unit, which operates under the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), has a notable history of successful missions, including Operation Neptune Spear in 2011 and the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips in 2009.
“It was an extraordinary team effort with different parts of the joint force making this happen,” the source said.
On October 31st, 2020, a daring raid was launched in the early hours of the morning. Utilizing the cover of darkness, a team of elite operators from SEAL Team 6 disembarked from a U.S. Air Force transport plane and approached the target location. According to officials familiar with the operation, seven captors were guarding Philip Walton at the time of the raid. In a brief firefight, the operators eliminated all but one of the captors, with no reported injuries among the American soldiers.
“They were all dead before they knew what happened,” another counterterrorism source with knowledge told ABC News.
According to sources, Philip Walton was rescued without injury and immediately transferred to the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Niamey upon his retrieval.
News of the operation was made public, and Jonathan Hoffman, the Chief Pentagon Spokesman, and U.S. President Donald Trump officially confirmed the successful rescue. President Trump expressed his support for the SEAL Team members, referring to them as “brave warriors” and stating that “our nation salutes the courageous soldiers behind the daring nighttime rescue operation.” He also tweeted that the operation was a “big win” for the elite force.
“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,” Jonathan Hoffman, chief Pentagon spokesman said. “This American citizen is safe and is now in the care of the U.S. Department of State.”
During a public speech in Pennsylvania on Saturday, President Trump further commented on the operation: “The kidnappers wished they had never done it. We got our American citizen and our young man back, but the other side suffered gravely.”
Operations of this nature are known to be particularly challenging, as even the slightest error could result in the death of the hostage. The individuals of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) should be commended for their successful execution of this mission. All Americans should take pride in their work.