WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump announced Monday that American citizen Danny Burch has been freed after 18 months of captivity in Yemen in what the State Department suggested was a rescue operation.
In a statement, Trump thanked the United Arab Emirates for its role in reuniting Burch with his family.
“Danny’s recovery reflects the best of what the United States and its partners can accomplish,” Trump said.
He said freeing Americans held overseas “is a priority of my administration” and added that 20 American captives have been released since his victory in the 2016 presidential election.
“We maintain constant and intensive diplomatic, intelligence, and law enforcement cooperation within the United States government and with our foreign partners,” Trump said, in a statement that was echoed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
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Pompeo thanked the Emiratis, Robert O’Brien, the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the FBI’s Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell for working to free Burch.
“Today, he is safe and secure, and is reunited with his wife and children,” Pompeo said.
The White House did not provide additional details on Burch’s case, citing privacy concerns. However Pompeo’s statement was titled “On the Rescue of Danny Burch from Captivity.”
Yemen has been riven by a deadly civil war since 2015 and Burch’s abduction had been blamed on Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
Burch, who is from eastern Texas and is married to a Yemeni national, had lived in the country for years working for an oil company. He was reportedly kidnapped by the rebels in Sept. 2017. His wife told The New York Times at the time that Burch had left their home in the capital of Sanaa to take their sons to a sports club but never returned.
She said police later told her that Burch had been stopped by five armed men in civilian clothes who took him away. There had been reports of his release in January of last year but U.S. officials said Monday those had been erroneous.