An American hostage kidnapped in Niger earlier this week has been freed in a raid by USA special forces, the Pentagon has announced.
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The elite SEAL Team Six carried out the rescue mission and killed all but one of the seven captors, according to officials with direct knowledge about the operation. "Our Nation salutes the courageous soldiers behind the daring nighttime rescue operation and celebrates the safe return of yet another American citizen!"
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters on Saturday, "U.S. forces conducted a hostage rescue operation during the early hours of 31 Oct.in northern Nigeria to recover an American citizen held hostage by a group of armed men".
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The governor of the local region where the abduction took place was quoted in various local media and by French media reporting from Niger as saying that six men on motorbikes armed with AK47s came to the man's property in the village of Massalata, close to the border with Nigeria. However, hostages are often sold to terrorist groups, which caused American authorities to jump into action before Watson was handed over to terrorists that could be affiliated with al Qaeda or ISIS, according to a counterterrorism official.
Niger, like much of West Africa's Sahel region, faces a deepening security crisis as groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State carry out attacks on the army and civilians, despite help from French and USA forces. "We appreciate the support of our worldwide partners in conducting this operation", he said in a statement.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lauded the mission and avowed the US commitment to return Americans taken hostage while overseas.
Niger is a close USA ally and has been assisting our forces in combatting terrorists in the region belonging to ISIS and al-Qaeda.
A former USA counterterrorism official emphasized generally how long the odds are for rescue in the "highly dangerous" missions - less than 30%.
"Outstanding work by the USA military today in freeing a US citizen taken hostage in Niger and reuniting him with his family", Pompeo tweeted.