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Trump announces the recovery of an American hostage in Yemen

The president said Danny Burch, an oil worker, had been freed after more than 18 months.

President Donald Trump Departs White House For Vietnam Summit With North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un
President Donald Trump departs for Vietnam on February 25, 2019.
Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images
Jen Kirby is a senior foreign and national security reporter at Vox, where she covers global instability.

An American hostage in Yemen who was held captive for more than a year is now free, President Donald Trump said Monday.

Danny Burch, an oil worker, was reportedly kidnapped by armed men in Yemen last year and held hostage for 18 months. On Monday, Trump announced that Burch “has been recovered and reunited with his wife and children.”

“Danny’s recovery reflects the best of what the United States & its partners can accomplish,” the White House said in a statement. Trump credited the United Arab Emirates, a key member of the Saudi coalition that’s currently fighting a brutal war in Yemen, with helping to secure Burch’s release.

Gunmen abducted Burch from his car in Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, in September 2017, his family told the media at the time. According to reports from the BBC and Reuters, Burch was taken by Houthi rebels, the Iran-backed group fighting the Saudi-led coalition in the conflict.

In a separate statement on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also thanked the UAE, as well as the US’s envoy for hostage affairs Robert O’Brien, the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi, and the FBI’s Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell.

The White House and the State Department have not released many details about Burch’s recovery, with the State Department saying that the family has “asked for privacy” after the ordeal. (The State Department has not returned Vox’s request for additional comment.)

A Reuters report from January 2018 that was attributed to local sources said Burch had been released and taken to Oman last year, accompanied by a senior Houthi rebel leader — but the Associated Press said Monday that US officials had discredited those earlier reports.

Burch started working in Yemen in the 1990s and moved there permanently in 2005, according to the New York Times. At the time of his disappearance, he was working as an engineer for the state-run oil company. His wife told reporters that he had been dropping his kids off at a sporting event when, witnesses said, gunmen seized him.

Burch’s release marks another apparent victory for Trump. The president has made it a priority to free American hostages abroad — and has had legitimate successes.

In October, the Trump administration successfully secured the release of Andrew Brunson, the evangelical pastor held in Turkey over suspicions he aided the 2016 coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In May, Trump successfully got North Korea to release three American hostages that were being held there.

“Recovering American hostages is a priority of my administration, and with Danny’s release, we have now secured freedom for 20 American captives since my election victory,” Trump said while announcing Burch’s release.