Facts have emerged to how American troops in a high-risk military operation on Saturday rescued an American citizen taken hostage last week in Niger, according to a statement from the Pentagon.
The mission was undertaken by elite commandos as part of a major effort to free Walton, 27, before his abductors could get far after taking him captive in Niger on Oct. 26, counterterrorism officials told ABC News.
Niger has faced a growing number of attacks by extremists linked to both the Islamic State group and to al-Qaida. The kidnapping comes two months after IS-linked militants killed six French aid workers and their Niger guide while they were visiting a wildlife park east of the capital, Army Times reported.
U.S. and Nigerien officials had said that Walton was kidnapped from his backyard last Monday after assailants asked him for money. But he only offered $40 and was then taken away by force, according to sources in Niger.Walton lives with his wife and young daughter on a farm near Massalata, a small village close to the border with Nigeria.
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 it terror-related. But hostages are often sold to terrorist groups.
Concern 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.
This story contains information from the Associated Press.