President Trump Announces Release of Hostage Danny Burch from Yemen

American held hostage in Yemen freed: Trump
AFP SAUL LOEB

President Donald Trump on Monday announced the release of Danny Burch, an American citizen who has been held hostage in Yemen since 2017. Trump thanked the United Arab Emirates for assisting with Burch’s liberation and said his administration has now secured the freedom of 20 Americans held captive in various countries.

Trump delivered the good news on Monday through his preferred social media platform, Twitter:

Danny Burch was taken from his car by a squad of gunmen in broad daylight on the streets of Yemen’s capital Sanaa in September 2017. A native of East Texas, Burch was 63 years old at the time of his abduction and had been living in Yemen for several years while working as an engineer for the Yemeni Safer oil company. Burch converted to Islam during his time in Yemen and married a Yemen woman. The couple has three children, the oldest of whom was 12 when he was taken.

The abduction occurred in an area controlled by the Iran-backed Houthi insurgents who drove Yemen’s internationally-recognized government out of Sanaa. The Houthis initially denounced the kidnapping as a “criminal and cowardly act” and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice, but were eventually revealed to be holding him prisoner.

Burch was transferred from Yemen to Oman in January 2018, traveling in the company of a senior Houthi official. This event was widely described as the Houthis “releasing” Burch, but he was evidently unable to return to his family until today. A March 2018 briefing from CriticalThreats.org stated the Houthi official who traveled to Oman with Burch was a negotiator named Mohammed Ali al-Houthi and noted the timing of Burch’s purported “release” coincided with “renewed al-Houthi overtures for negotiations.” Salam subsequently left Oman for Iran and met with Iranian officials including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

At the time of this writing, the White House has not clarified Burch’s status since January 2018 or detailed the negotiations that ultimately reunited him with his family.

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