The rescue of Philip Walton is a successful operation of U.S. Special Operations Forces conducted in Nigeria on the last day of October 2020. In the early hours of October 31, 2020, U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6 (DEVGRU) conducted a daring hostage rescue operation in Northern Nigeria in order to recover an American citizen identified as Philip Walton.
Philip Walton, 27, was living with his wife and daughter in Massalata, a small town in Niger, near the border with Nigeria. According to U.S. officials, he was abducted on Monday, October 26, 2020. Walton is reportedly a farmer who keeps camels, sheep, and poultry and grows mangoes near the Niger-Nigeria border. He was kidnapped by six men armed with AK-47 assault rifles who arrived on motorcycles at his home in southern Niger’s Massalata village early on Tuesday.
Following its trails, U.S. Intelligence services located him in Northern Nigeria. Shortly after the U.S. president was informed, the elite U.S. Special Operations Forces unit was given green light. The decision to pull the trigger on the operation was “tough,” but that ultimately the president prioritizes the safety of American citizens.
The plan of the abductors was either to ask for ransom money or to sell Philip Walton to one of the terrorist groups active in Nigeria, according to the sources.
Rescue of Philip Walton
The operation was a result of the cooperation of the governments of the U.S., Niger, and Nigeria. They worked together to rescue Walton quickly. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) provided intelligence leading to Walton’s whereabouts and Marine Special Operations elements in Africa helped locate him. SEAL Team 6 was chosen for the operation because they are responsible for West Africa. It is the unit operating under the JSOC, well-known for 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.
The daring raid was carried out in the early hours of October 31, 2020. Covered with darkness, a group of elite operators from the Seal Team 6 jumped out of a U.S. Air Force transport plane a few clicks from the target. The Philip Walton was guarded with 7 captors. In a short firefight, operators killed all but one of the seven captors, according to officials with direct knowledge about the operation. No American military personnel were injured during the operation.
“They were all dead before they knew what happened,” another counterterrorism source with knowledge told ABC News.
According to the sources, Philip Walton is unharmed and currently is at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Niamey.
Shortly after the public learned about the operation, it was officially confirmed by Jonathan Hoffman, chief Pentagon spokesman and U.S. President Donald Trump.
“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.”
President Donald Trump tweeted out a show of support, calling the SEAL team members “brave warriors,” and saying that “our nation salutes the courageous soldiers behind the daring nighttime rescue operation.” In a separate tweet, Trump described the operation as a “big win” for the elite force.
Speaking before a crowd in Pennsylvania on Saturday, Trump added: “The kidnappers wished they had never done it. We got our American citizen, we got our young man back, but the other side suffered gravely.”
These types of operations are some of the most difficult to execute, any mistake could easily lead to the death of the hostage. The men and women of JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) and the CIA should be proud of what they did here. And all Americans should be proud of them.