•Says Buhari approved mission to Sokoto
By Iyobosa Uwugiaren
Details emerged yesterday on the role Nigeria played in the rescue of an American kidnapped in Niger but liberated by the United State elite Special Force, SEAL Team Six on Saturday in Sokoto State.
A senior diplomat told THISDAY that the Nigeria intelligence community provided the ‘’intelligence operation’’ that made the rescue mission of the American, Philip Walton, successful.
Walton was kidnapped on October 26 in Niger and ferried to Nigeria by his kidnappers.
The source spoke against the backdrop of bickering between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Sunday over the rescue of the American hostage.
The PDP fired the first salvo, saying that the rescue mission confirmed that President Muhammadu Buhari can neither secure the territorial integrity of the nation nor arrest the insecurity ravaging the country.
But the APC fired back, accusing the PDP of playing politics with the country’s security.
There have been insinuations about Nigeria’s role in the rescue mission, amidst several media reports quoting President Donald Trump and the Pentagon as saying that the CIA provided the intelligence leading to Walton’s whereabouts while Marine Special Operations elements in Africa helped to locate him.
According to the reports, the elite SEAL Team Six carried out a “precision” hostage rescue mission and killed all but one of the seven captors.
Trump had called the rescue mission a “big win for our very elite U.S. Special Forces” in a tweet and the Pentagon lauded the rescue mission in a statement.
During a rally in Pennsylvania, Trump praised the military for what he called a “brilliantly executed” operation.
“Last night, our brave special forces rescued an American hostage,” he said as the crowd applauded and chanted “USA.”
However, a top official in the intelligence community yesterday gave an insider’s account on how the rescue mission was executed.
He confided in THISDAY that as soon as Walton was abducted in Niger Republic, and the captors called the victim’s father, the Niger’s external security agency chief was said to have called his Nigeria counterpart, informing him that the phone numbers the captors used were Nigeria’s.
The source said: ‘’As soon as we got that information, we quickly tracked the phone numbers and we discovered that the abductors were in a parcel of land owned by one Mallam Abubakar in Illela Local Government Area in Sokoto State.
‘’Nigeria and Niger were working on this information when on October 28, 2020, the US government wrote the federal government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, requesting the permission of President Muhammadu Buhari to carry out the rescue mission.’’
Security chiefs, including top military officers, were said to have met, reviewed the US’ letter and advised Buhari on the way to go.
Based on the recommendation by the intelligence chiefs, the president was said to have given explicit approval to the US’ request, after their officials, along with Nigeria’s security chiefs and some senior staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs met with his Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, in Abuja.
Explaining the reasons for the president’s approval, the intelligence chief told THISDAY that even though Nigeria doesn’t have a ‘’military pact’’ with the US, a military alliance in which both countries promise to support each other militarily and to defend each other, Nigeria is currently fighting terrorism and requires all the assistance of the global community, including the US.
‘’Again, based on humanitarian grounds, Nigeria cannot reject the request to rescue a US citizen in our country. More so, when there are no military installations in the area that was targeted that will be damaged.
‘’We were also assured by the US in its letter to the president that the entire operation will not last more than 12 hours,” the source added.
While the US rescue team was commended for an efficient and successful rescue mission, the source said Nigeria has a lot to learn from the operation, adding that the mission was made possible because of super US military equipment like Night Vigil Helicopter that operates without sound and with powerful night flying facilities.
‘’We commended the US for the operation; and we have a lot to learn from them.
But let it be on record that Nigeria intelligence community provided the intelligence operation that led to the success of the operation,’’ the source stated.
According to him, with increasing deadly activities of terrorists across the world, the way to go is to invest hugely in security equipment for effective operation, when the need arises.