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US spec ops troops secretly rescue hostage from Africa

Green Berets assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne). (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Peter Seidler)
August 31, 2022

U.S. special operations forces rescued a hostage from Africa in a raid this week, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley revealed on Tuesday. The hostage’s identity wasn’t officially released, but reports suggest it may be a Catholic nun from the New Orleans, La. area.

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During a change of command ceremony shifting command of the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) from Army Gen. Richard Clarke to Army Gen. Bryan Fenton, Milley touted several SOCOM operations during Clarke’s tenure, including a rescue mission “in the last 48 hours.”

“There is no other organization with the extraordinary talent and skill found in United States special operations forces and Rich Clark led SOCOM,” Milley said. “He led them in building partner capacity, strengthening relationships with our allies and partners, building capable and credible fighting forces and currently SOCOM has over 5000 troops deployed in 80 countries.”

“Under Rich’s command SOCOM teams rescued a U.S. citizen in Nigeria just 96 hours after capture, they eliminated [Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Gen. Qassem] Soleimani, [and ISIS head Abu Bakr Al] Baghdadi and, most recently, in the last 48 hours they recovered another hostage,” Milley continued.

Milley did not identify the hostage rescued this week, what group had taken the hostage or where they were holding the hostage.

On Aug. 30, the Clarion Herald — the official newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans — reported that a Marianite nun named Sister Suellen Tennyson had been freed after held hostage for more than four months. Tennyson had been on an educational and medical mission in the African country of Burkina Faso when she was kidnapped from a convent by at least 10 armed men in early April.

Tennyson had been staying at the time at a convent in Yalgo, in northern Burkina Faso near the country’s border with Mali. Terrorists affiliated with Al Qaeda and the ISIS affiliate known as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (IS-GS) have been active throughout western African countries like Mali and Burkina Faso.

It was not immediately clear if Tennyson’s recovery from captivity was related to the rescue mission Milley described on Tuesday.

The Clarion Herald reported Tennyson was “found alive and is safe” and that New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond “was overjoyed that [Tennyson] had been freed.” The publication provided few additional details about Tennyson’s recovery.

A sister in Tennyson’s Marianite convent could not immediately respond to an American Military News request for comment.

The U.S. hostage rescued from Nigeria within 96 hours of being captured, also referenced by Milley, was 27-year-old Philip Walton. Members of the Tier 1 elite SEAL Team 6 rescued Walton on Oct. 31, 2020.