President Donald Trump met Wednesday with Danny Burch, an American freed from Yemen last week after being held in captivity for more than a year.
“We have a very big moment because we have Danny Burch back home where he should be,” Trump told reporters in the White House. “He was in Yemen in a very horrible situation — a captive, a prisoner, you can call him whatever you want but it wasn’t good.”
Burch, an oil worker, was reportedly kidnapped by armed men in Yemen last year. Trump said that Burch was held for 18 months “and we got him out and we had some great help from UAE and all of our friends.” (UAE stands for the United Arab Emirates, which assisted in securing Burch’s release.)
Trump’s comments largely echo his announcement about Burch’s release in February, but the administration otherwise hasn’t provided many details about his capture or how Burch was finally released from captivity.
Burch, when asked for comment by reporters, simply said, “Gosh, it’s great to be an American.”
What we know about Burch’s case
Armed kidnappers reportedly 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 Yemen.
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 reported in February 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, kidnappers 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 that he aided the 2016 coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In May, Trump successfully got North Korea to release three American hostages that were being held there.
Trump touted those achievements in the White House on Wednesday. “I will say, Danny, we’re 20 and 0,” Trump said. “We’ve gotten a lot of them out.”
“I love doing it because I love the end result. This is the end result — happy man with a happy family.”