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FG permitted US rescue operation, says minister

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The Federal Government has said it was aware and actually gave permission for the military operation conducted by the United States military at the weekend to rescue an American, Philip Walton, who was kidnapped in Niger but taken to a border village in northern Nigeria.

Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Salihi Magashi (rtd), told journalists at the National Assembly that Nigeria granted the United States the permission to carry out the military operation in line with diplomatic rules. He debunked the rumour that the United States violated Nigeria’s sovereignty.

Magashi made the disclosure in an interview with journalists shortly after defending the allocation for his ministry in the 2021 budget at the Senate yesterday.

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On the need for the military to deploy more of technology in the fight against insecurity, Magashi said the nation was handicapped by some “so-called developed nations who want Nigeria to remain the way it is and keep running to them for help.” He however said the country was doing the best it could with what is available to the military.

The minister further said that Nigeria would explore the current partnership with the United States to tackle insurgency in the country.

Some groups had rumoured that the Federal Government was not aware of the US military operation. They blamed the service chiefs for the situation and accused the American government of violating Nigeria’s sovereignty.

The rescue of Walton became the subject matter of campaigns by the US President Donald Trump as soon as the news broke.

In a statement issued as Trump campaigned in Pennsylvania on Saturday afternoon, US president said: “Last night, at my direction, the United States military conducted a successful operation to rescue an American hostage in Nigeria, kidnapped just 96 hours earlier. United States Special Forces executed a daring nighttime operation to rescue their fellow American with exceptional skill, precision and bravery … The former hostage is currently in good health and has been reunited with his family.”

Also, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, had said: “The United States is committed to the safe return of all US citizens taken captive. We delivered on that commitment late last night in Nigeria … We will never abandon any American taken hostage.”

According to reports, Walton, who kept camels, sheep and poultry and grew mangoes near the border with Nigeria, was kidnapped by six men armed with assault rifles who arrived on motorcycles at his home in southern Niger’s Massalata village early on Tuesday.

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