Nigeria Police on Thursday disclosed that intelligence officers have arrested two members of a trans-national kidnapping syndicate involved in the abduction of Philippe Nathan Walton, an American citizen on October 28, 2020 at his farm in Masalata village, Republic of Niger.
A police statement stated on Twitter that the suspects Aliyu Abdullahi, 21, a.k.a Mallam and Aliyu Umaru, 23 a.k.a Kwatte Kusu, both from Sokoto State, were arrested on November 25 following intelligence and collaboration with the Nigerien police.
The two suspects were part of a 15-man kidnapping gang of Nigerian and Nigerien extraction, led by Barte Dan Alhaji and Dan Buda.
The police added that they were collaborating with their Nigerien counterpart in investigations to apprehend other members of the transnational syndicate currently at large.
ABC News reported in October, that Walton was rescued “during a high-risk U.S. military raid in neighbouring Nigeria
“The mission was undertaken by elite commandos as part of a major effort to free the U.S. citizen, Philip Walton, 27, before his abductors could get far after taking him captive in Niger on October 26, counterterrorism officials told ABC News, ” the report said.
Sources told ABC News that the operation involved the governments of the U.S., Niger and Nigeria working together to rescue Walton quickly.
“The elite SEAL Team 6 carried out the rescue mission and killed all but one of the captors, according to officials with direct knowledge about the operation.
“Nigerien and American officials told ABC News that they believed the captors were from an armed group from Nigeria and that it was not considered terror-related. But hostages are often sold to terrorist groups, ” the report said.
The network added that concerns grew quickly after the kidnapping that an opportunity to rescue Walton could become much more dangerous if he was taken by or sold to a group of Islamist militants aligned with either al Qaeda or ISIS and American special operations commanders felt they needed to act swiftly before that could occur, said one counterterrorism official briefed on the hostage recovery operations.
In a Statement, Jonathan Hoffman, Chief Pentagon Spokesman said: “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. This American citizen is safe and is now in the care of the U.S. Department of State. No U.S military personnel were injured during the operation.
“We appreciate the support of our international partners in conducting this operation.”