Niger: American hostage rescued by US special forces

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A map showing Niger

An American hostage kidnapped in Niger earlier this week has been freed in a raid by US special forces, the Pentagon has announced.

Philip Walton was abducted on Monday from a village close to the border with Nigeria.

He was taken across the border into Nigeria and rescued on Saturday.

Jihadist and criminal groups are known to operate in the area. It's thought at least six hostages are currently being held captive in the Sahel area.

Mr Walton was abducted from the village of Massalata, where he had been living with his wife and child for two years, his father told AFP news agency.

Locals said six men armed with AK47s arrived in the village on motorbikes.

It's unclear why Mr Walton was targeted and who the armed group were.

"This American citizen is safe and is now in the care of the US Department of State," a statement from Jonathan Hoffman, assistant to the Secretary of State for Public Affairs said.

He added that no American service personnel were harmed in the operation to rescue Mr Walton from the "armed men".

US President Donald Trump sent a tweet praising the elite special forces.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Niger is battling various armed groups. In August, six French aid workers as well as their driver and local guide were killed by gunmen in the Koure area of Tillebery region, which attracts tourists who want to see the last herds of giraffe in West Africa.

At least six Western hostages are being held in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, including the American aid worker Jeffery Woodke, who was kidnapped in central Niger four years ago.