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US special forces free abducted American in Nigeria

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Philip Walton was abducted from his farm in Massalata village in southern Niger by armed men who demanded a ransom from his family.

US Army Special Forces. Picture: Rodrigo Arangua

AMERICAN special forces with the help of Nigerian security forces killed six kidnappers and rescued an American who was abducted in Niger last week.

In a statement, the US Department of Defence said the operation took place in neighbouring northern Nigeria on Saturday.

“This American citizen is safe and is now in the care of the US Department of State. No US military personnel were injured during the operation,” read the statement.

Moments after the operation, US President Donald Trump tweeted his praise of the rescue mission.

“Big win for our very elite US Special Forces today. Details to follow!” he wrote.

In a statement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo thanked the military for their work.

“Thanks to the extraordinary courage and capabilities of our military, the support of our intelligence professionals and our diplomatic efforts, the hostage will be reunited with his family.”

The hostage, Philip Walton, 27, was abducted from his farm in Massalata village in southern Niger early on Tuesday morning by armed men who demanded ransom from his family.

Al Jazeera reported that Walton, who kept camels, sheep and poultry and grew mangos near the border with Nigeria, was kidnapped by six men armed with AK-47 assault rifles who arrived on motorcycles at his home.

His wife, young daughter and brother were left behind.

The kidnappers then called the victim’s father to demand a ransom, according to the Daily Mail.

West Africa is seeing a wave of kidnapping that is cutting across every socio-economic class.

According to Nigerian police, 685 kidnappings occurred nationwide in the first quarter of 2019, an average of seven a day.

Kidnappers demand between US$1,000 (R16 258) and US$150,000 (R2.4 million) as ransom, depending on the financial resources of the victims.

They have collected millions of dollars in ransom payments as a result of kidnappings in recent years.