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Diane Fillmore, Navy veteran who found a new course at 50, dies at 59

This obituary is part of a series on people who died in the coronavirus pandemic. Learn more about the others here.

Diane Keith’s life changed in 1987, on her first day of Navy training in Virginia Beach. She had struggled in early adulthood, and she saw the military as a way to give herself direction. But it had meant leaving her baby at home in Ohio with her mother. Sitting there, wondering if she had made the right decision, she began to cry.

A young man came by and tried to console her.

“It’s going to be OK,” said Ronald Fillmore. “Because one of these days I’m going to marry you.”

She laughed and she stopped crying. Five years later, they got married.

Ms Fillmore, who spent six years in the service, raised three children and found a new career in her early fifties, died Jan. 14 in a hospital in Dayton, Ohio. She was 59 years old. The cause was Covid-19, her daughter, Britt Fillmore, said.

Diane Lynn Keith was born October 14, 1961 in St. Marys, Ohio, approximately 60 miles north of Dayton. His parents, Thomas Keith and Margaret (Lee) Keith, both worked in factories.

After graduating from high school, she moved to Wichita Falls, Texas, to train to be a flight attendant. She gave up, but she stayed in town because she had started dating someone. The two separated while pregnant with her first child, Ryan, born in 1985.

She spent the next few months struggling to get by in Wichita Falls, sleeping at one point in her car with her newborn baby next to her. She then returned to Ohio and decided to take charge of her life. She enlisted in the Navy, temporarily left Ryan with her parents, and left for Virginia Beach.

In the Navy, she worked in the Office of Naval Personnel, where she received a Medal of Good Conduct and brought Ryan back to live with her.

She and Mr. Fillmore married in 1992, the same year their daughter, Britt, was born. Ms. Fillmore left the service in 1993 as a Petty Officer Third Class and the family returned to Ohio, settling in Dayton.

Mr. Fillmore accepted civilian employment at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base while Ms. Fillmore stayed at home to raise their children. When her sister, Katherine Keith, died in 2000, shortly after her husband’s death, she and Mr. Fillmore adopted their 4-year-old daughter, Jazmine Cager.

Ms. Fillmore was known to her children’s friends as the “cool mom”. She laughed heartily and had an ear for music, especially old-school R&B groups like Frankie Beverly and Maze, as well as newer artists like Drake and Juvenile. She wore headphones constantly, dancing a shoulder movement while doing household chores.

“Half the time when I walked into the house she didn’t even know I was there,” said Britt Fillmore.

In 2010, after her three children graduated from high school, Ms. Fillmore found another new direction. She enrolled at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, becoming a student at the same time as her daughter Britt was studying at the Cincinnati Art Institute. She then obtained an associate’s degree in medical coding.

“If my mom was doing well in school, that meant I had to do good in school too,” said Britt Fillmore.

But inspiration, she added, also went the other way. Ms. Fillmore often needed help with math, and her daughter was home on the weekends to teach her.

“Your mom teaches you so much, so it was fun to be able to teach her how to do things,” said Britt Fillmore. “She went from almost zero failure to a B.”

After graduating in 2012, Ms. Fillmore worked at a number of Dayton area medical facilities, most recently at Kettering Medical Center, where she was an account representative.

With her daughter Britt, she is survived by her other children, Ryan and Jazmine; her husband; his mother; his brothers, Michael, Douglas, David and Allen Keith; and a granddaughter.

Britt Fillmore said that in recent years her mother has become obsessed with a genre of YouTube video known as mukbang, in which people eat huge amounts of food while chatting with viewers. She was particularly fond of a mukbang star specializing in seafood.

“The ironic thing,” Ms. Fillmore said, “is that she had been dramatically allergic to seafood her entire life. She would look at this and say, ‘Wow, I wish I could eat this.’ “

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From Navy SEAL to some of the angry mob outside the Capitol

In the weeks since Adam Newbold, a former member of the Navy SEALs, was identified as part of the enraged mob that descended on the Capitol on January 6, he was interviewed by the FBI and resigned. under the pressure of his mentoring position. and as a volunteer wrestling trainer. He expects his business to lose important customers because of his actions.

But none of this shaken his belief, against all evidence, that the presidential election was stolen and that people like him were right to stand up.

It’s surprising because Mr. Newbold’s track record seems to protect him better than most against the allure of baseless conspiracy theories. In the Navy, he was trained as an expert in sorting out information from disinformation, an underground commando who spent years working in intelligence in association with the CIA, and he once made fun of the idea of ​​obscure undemocratic plots like the “tin foil hat” thought.

Even so, like thousands of others who traveled to Washington this month to support President Donald J. Trump, Mr. Newbold adhered to the fabricated theory that the election was rigged by an obscure cabal of liberal brokers of power who had pushed the nation to the precipice of civil war. No one could persuade him otherwise.

Photos from Capitol Hill show Mr. Newbold dressed in a black “We the People” T-shirt and riding a Capitol Police motorcycle, a short walk from where officers were fighting rioters.

Mr. Newbold says he did not enter the Capitol and that he was not charged with any crime. But his presence there reflects the volatile brew of partisan politics and viral disinformation that helped lead the assault.

Mr. Newbold’s worldview is evident from his Facebook account. In a combative swear-laden video he posted a week before the riot, he repeated debunked but widely disseminated claims about the election, saying “it’s absolutely unbelievable, the mountains of fraud evidence election and voter fraud and the machines and people who voted, dead who voted. When the commentators challenged him, he responded with swear words and lines like “Yeah keep laughing, you’ll laugh when you’re crushed.”

A striking aspect of the angry mob on Capitol Hill was the fact that many of its members appeared to come not from the fringes of American society, but from the white palisade backgrounds of Main Street – firefighters and realtors, a marketing executive and a member of the municipal council. , all captivated by weak conspiracy theories. Mr. Newbold’s presence showed how compelling the story of the rigged election had become.

His experience should have made it hard to cheat. A few years earlier, he had been the recipient of the same kind of unsubstantiated and potentially dangerous fervor about an alleged sinister government plot known as Jade Helm.

Even after the Capitol riot, however, he expressed confidence that he had not been fooled.

“I have been to countries all over the world brainwashed by propaganda,” Newbold said in a lengthy telephone interview last week, adding that he knew how disinformation could be used to manipulate the masses. “I have no doubts; I am convinced that the election was not free and fair.”

He said he believed anonymous elites had quietly pulled off a coup by manipulating election software, and warned the country was still on the brink of war.

Mr. Newbold, 45, lives in the rural hills of eastern Ohio and is one of three brothers who all went on to become Navy SEAL commandos. He spent 23 years in the elite force, according to navy records, including seven in the naval reserves, before retiring as chief petty officer in 2017. He was awarded two elite honors from the Marine for her bravery in combat deployments and several others for her good conduct.

A former SEAL who served with him at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Virginia said Mr. Newbold was smart and had a good reputation on SEAL teams, and had worked with the CIA on intelligence gathering.

After the Navy, Mr. Newbold moved to the small town of Lisbon, Ohio, opened a cafe, and started a business called Advanced Training Group that taught SEAL-style tactics to members of the military and police. , and maintained a gym and shooting range. club for locals.

Through his company, he was involved in the design and conduct of an eight-week military exercise in Texas and other border states in the summer of 2015 called Jade Helm 15.

When a PowerPoint slide summarizing the exercise leaked, it was seized by fringe Facebook groups and professional conspiracy theory promoters like Alex Jones, who began to claim that Jade Helm was a secret plot to do invade Texas by federal troops, seize the guns of citizens and impose martial law. Unfounded rumors have circulated about the “black helicopters” and Walmart stores that have been turned into detention camps.

The storm of political paranoia sparked by a simple drill has become so fierce that some members of Congress, who later questioned the election of Joseph R. Biden Jr., began to demand answers, and Governor Greg Abbott ordered the Texas National Guard to maintain watch.

In the end, the exercise went off without a hitch. Mr Newbold said in the interview that he and the other former special operators who planned the training exercise laughed at the paranoia and even made t-shirts saying, “I went to Jade Helm and all. what i got was this tin foil hat.

Last week, he admitted that the frenzy of disinformation surrounding Jade Helm could have been deadly. The people of Texas had been frightened to the brink of violence. Three men were arrested after planning to attack the exercise with homemade bombs.

“There were actually farmers and landowners who threatened to shoot at them if anyone was on their land, so there was real concern,” Newbold said. “It’s funny, but these are things we have to take seriously.”

At the time, Mr. Newbold dismissed what he had witnessed as fringe delusions, unaware that it was a precursor to the fantasies that had just sucked in many more Americans, including military troops, police officers, members of Congress and a sitting president – not to mention Mr. Newbold.

Mr. Newbold is a longtime registered Republican who has said he voted for Mr. Trump. Over the past four years, as mainstream media coverage of the President grew harsher and Mr. Newbold’s sometimes strident support on Facebook drew more reprimands, he migrated to news sources and discussion forums. who shared his views.

In late fall 2020, he was spending time on private Facebook pages where far-right chatter was proliferating. He posted long and often angry video soliloquies about how the country was being robbed. He seemed increasingly convinced that people were plotting not only against Mr. Trump but against the Constitution, and as a veteran it was his duty to defend it.

Mr Newbold has started holding private meetings at his shooting club with other like-minded members, according to a former member who said he resigned because he was alarmed by growing extremism.

“It’s become super bigoted,” said the former member, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was afraid of reprisals. “I tried to reason with him, to show him facts, and he just went nuclear.

After the November election, Mr Newbold’s Facebook posts predicting an upcoming war worried some people in Lisbon to the point that at least one said they alerted the FBI.

Last week, when discussing his beliefs, Mr Newbold rejected dozens of court rulings dismissing challenges to election results and ignored logistical obstacles to rigging an election led by independent officials in more of 3000 counties. Without citing any evidence, he suggested that it was naive to assume the results had not been rigged.

In a lengthy video posted in late December, the former SEAL member predicted a Communist takeover if people didn’t stand up to stop him. “Once things start to get violent then I’m in my element,” he said in the video. “And I will defend this country. And there are plenty of other people who will too.

A week later, Mr. Newbold organized a group of employees, club members and supporters from his company to travel by caravan to Washington, and joined the flag-waving crowd that floated towards the Capitol on the 6th. January.

In a video posted that evening, he is seen saying that members of his group were “on the front lines” of the unrest. “Guys, you would be proud,” Mr. Newbold told his viewers. “I don’t know when was the last time you stormed the Capitol. But that’s what happened. It was historic, it was necessary. He adds that members of Congress “were shaking in their shoes.”

In last week’s interview, Mr. Newbold sought to downplay his involvement in the events on Capitol Hill. He said he sat on the police motorbike only to ward off vandals and traveled to Washington not to incite violence but to protect Capitol Hill from angry liberals in case the Senate would agree to stop the certification of the election. .

After the Capitol attack, he deleted some of his most inflammatory online posts. But what happened in Washington apparently did not make him question his beliefs. He said he was always sure the elections were stolen and the country was on the path to global autocracy.

And in a video released six days after the riot, when people were known to have died, Mr Newbold said on Capitol Hill he felt “a sense of pride that Americans have finally risen” . He did not rule out turning to violence himself.

“I make no apologies for being a brutal man willing to do tough things in tough situations,” he said. “Sometimes it is absolutely necessary, and it has been throughout our history.”

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Navy warship’s secret mission off West Africa aims to help punish Venezuela

WASHINGTON – Over the past month, Navy cruiser San Jacinto left the West African island nation of Cape Verde on a secret mission to help deal a heavy blow to President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, an avowed opponent of the Trump administration.

The mission was launched in early June, when Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman who is widely regarded as the architect of the economic deals that keep the Maduro government afloat, was arrested in Cape Verde when his private plane sank stopped for refueling on the way to Iran from Venezuela. The United States has requested his extradition on US money laundering charges, and legal proceedings have begun.

“Saab is of crucial importance to Maduro because he has been the leader of the Maduro family for years,” said Moises Rendon, Venezuela specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Saab has access to inside information about Maduro’s corruption schemes inside and outside Venezuela.”

The stealthy arrival of the US warship coincided with President Trump’s sacking of Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper in early November. For months, Mr Esper had pushed back on requests from the state and justice departments to deploy a navy vessel to Cape Verde to deter Venezuela and Iran from plotting to drive Mr Saab away from the island. Mr Esper scoffed at concerns over a cape and dagger jailbreak, and said the Navy dispatch was an abuse of US military power. A Coast Guard cutter was sent in August instead.

With Mr. Esper on the sidelines, however, his replacement, Acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller, a former White House counterterrorism aide, quickly approved the deployment of the San Jacinto of Norfolk, in Virginia. The ship crossed the Atlantic to keep close eye contact on the only captive.

In the final days of Mr. Trump’s tenure, the story of the San Jacinto and its unlikely month-long mission illustrates what critics say is the administration’s capricious use of the military – one day deploying troops at the south-western border, suddenly pulling other troops from the north-east. Syria next.

It is also the latest effect of Mr. Trump’s purge of top Pentagon leadership and its slice of largely die-hard loyalists. Mr. Esper having left, Mr. Miller ordered deeper troop cuts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia; ousted the politician who oversees the military’s efforts to combat ISIS; and considered withdrawing its military support for the CIA, including its drone fleet.

The confrontation with Mr. Saab is the latest twist in the tense relationship between the United States and Venezuela. In 2017, Mr. Trump said he would not rule out a “military option” to quell chaos in Venezuela. In 2018, the Trump administration held secret meetings with rebel military officers from Venezuela to discuss their plans to topple Mr. Maduro.

It should come as no surprise then that administration assistants were elated when officials in Cape Verde arrested Mr Saab on his fuel cut, responding to a research alert from Interpol known as the notice. red, which was in effect due to US money laundering charges. .

In a statement at the time, Mr. Maduro’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said that Mr. Saab had stopped in Cape Verde for a “necessary stopover” en route to “ensure the obtaining” of food and medicine for Venezuela.

Mr. Arreaza condemned the detention, calling it an act of “violation of international law and standards” and saying that the Maduro government would do everything possible to protect “the human rights of Mr. Alex Saab”.

Such threats worry extremists in justice and state departments, including Elliott Abrams, the state department’s special envoy for Iran and Venezuela. They expressed concerns that Iranian or Venezuelan agents could help Mr. Saab escape the archipelago 350 miles west of Senegal into the North Atlantic, and that the United States would lose a unusual opportunity to punish Mr. Maduro.

Detaining Mr. Saab for months has robbed Mr. Maduro of an important ally and major financial mender at a time when fewer countries are willing or able to come to the aid of Venezuela. If Mr Saab cooperates with US officials, he could help unravel Mr Maduro’s economic support network and help authorities lay charges against other allies of the Venezuelan government.

Washington accused Mr. Saab of “profiting from the famine” by participating in a scheme in which he and others are suspected of getting away with large sums of government funds intended to feed the starving population of Venezuela. U.S. officials said it was part of a larger program in which Mr. Maduro’s allies bought food of lower and lower quality than what was demanded in contracts and redistributed additional money to loyalists.

Mr. Saab is one of many Maduro-related officials and businessmen indicted by the United States government in recent years, including Mr. Maduro himself. The United States and more than 50 other countries regard Mr. Maduro’s government as illegitimate and recognize a political rival, Juan Guaidó, as the country’s interim president.

In Washington this summer, Mr. Esper stood firm: Mr. Saab’s extradition was a laudable effort. But it would have to be conducted without a Navy warship. Instead, the Trump administration sent Coast Guard cutter Bear to Cape Verde in August. Cmdr. Jay W. Guyer, a spokesperson for the Coast Guard, said the bear had conducted a joint patrol with the Cape Verdean Coast Guard “to counter illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.” He said the bear also took part in a search and rescue demonstration near Cape Verde.

When Mr. Trump fired Mr. Esper, a Navy warship was back in service. And not a moment too soon, administration officials said.

To add to the international drama, two West African countries, at the request of the State Department, last month denied permission to refuel at their airports to an Iranian plane bound for Cape Verde . Officials said it was possible the plane was carrying Iranian spies, commandos or perhaps just lawyers trying to overturn Mr Saab’s extradition. The plane returned to Tehran.

Last week, the San Jacinto got new orders: return to Norfolk to ensure the 393-member crew will be home for Christmas and other holidays.

Supporters of the Navy’s deployment, like Mr. Abrams, have expressed confidence that San Jacinto’s presence – at an operating cost of $ 52,000 per day, according to the Navy’s Second Fleet – had deterred any harmful mischief.

The Pentagon’s Africa Command did not recognize the ship’s clandestine mission, claiming only that it was sent to Cape Verde “to combat illicit transnational maritime activities” in the region, said Kelly Cahalan, a spokesperson. command, in an email.

Ultimately, Mr Esper’s worst fears – an involuntary clash by the Navy with Iranian or Venezuelan agents in a case best suited for diplomats and international lawyers to resolve – did not materialize.

In Cape Verde, US officials said, the extradition process is continuing and Mr Saab’s appeals are expected to last at least until early 2021. A lawyer for Mr Saab has not returned requests for comments by email. A senior Pentagon official said no decision has been made on replacing the San Jacinto with another Navy vessel after the vacation.

Eric Schmitt reported from Washington, and Julie Turkewitz from Bogotá, Colombia.

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Navy will not fix fire damaged warship, claiming it will cost billions

A US Navy warship that was engulfed in fire in July while docked in San Diego will be decommissioned instead of rebuilt, the Pentagon said on Monday, deciding to forgo a repair project that could have exceeded $ 3 billion.

The ship, the USS Bonhomme Richard, will be scrapped and some of its spare parts will be used in other Navy ships, officials said.

The Navy said it would have taken five to seven years to complete repairs to the Bonhomme Richard, which is one of eight Wasp-class amphibious assault ships and can carry more than 1,000 sailors.

Even the cost of rebuilding the ship for some other purpose could have exceeded $ 1 billion, according to the Navy. That’s more than the cost of the ship when it was built in the 1990s, which was estimated at $ 761 million by the Federation of American Scientists.

Navy officials have called the decommissioning of a ship due to the damage rare.

“We did not come to this decision lightly,” Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite said in a statement on Monday. “Following a thorough physical assessment during which various courses of action were considered and assessed, we came to the conclusion that it is not financially responsible to restore it.

The fire began on July 12 and burned for four days while the ship was docked at the US Naval Base San Diego. There were no deaths, but 68 military and civilian firefighters were treated for injuries that included smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion.

The fire started in a lower hold used for vehicle storage on the ship, which was rocked by an explosion. Temperatures in parts of the ship reached 1,000 degrees as the fire raged.

The New York Times reported in August that the blaze was under investigation as arson and that a sailor from the ship had been questioned, according to a senior Navy official and Department of Justice official. defense. The arson investigation was first reported by ABC 10 News in San Diego.

The Navy said Monday the cause of the blaze was still under investigation and declined to say whether the blaze was being treated as arson.

A spokeswoman for the San Diego Fire Department, which responded to the blaze, said the department was not involved in the investigation.

The ship was named after the French translation of the pen name of Benjamin Franklin used as the author of “Poor Richard’s Almanac”. It is the third naval warship to bear the Bonhomme Richard name.

Commissioned in 1998, the ship can carry helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and landing craft to transport equipment and troops. It is 847 feet long and has a crew of 102 officers and just over 1,000 sailors.

One of its first combat deployments was after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when the ship was sent to the Persian Gulf, said Christopher Gunther, a retired Marine Corps colonel who served on Bonhomme Richard with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

“The ship is not just a piece of steel,” Gunther said in an interview on Monday. “You have all your memories of the great young Sailors and Marines who have served in this field over the years. You kind of see it as a symbol of their dedication to the country, and there it burns.

It was not immediately clear whether the crew of the Bonhomme Richard would be reassigned to the other seven Wasp-class assault ships. At the time of the fire, the ship was undergoing a long period of maintenance after years of deployment in Japan.

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David Perdue took advantage of a Navy contractor’s stock while overseeing the naval fleet.

Senator David Perdue, one of two Republican senators from Georgia facing the runoff election in January, began making large and ultimately profitable purchases of shares of a Navy contractor in 2018, just before taking chairmanship of a Senate subcommittee overseeing the navy fleet.

The disclosure, first reported on Wednesday by The Daily Beast, comes as Mr Perdue and fellow Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler have faced criticism for their stock trading.

Mr. Perdue, a millionaire and prolific former trader of individual stocks, announced in May that he would be divesting his large individual stocks after questions were raised about his timely purchases of Pfizer shares in February, after senators have been informed of the situation. threat of coronavirus.

In a debate last month, Mr Perdue’s Democratic opponent, Jon Ossoff, called him a “con artist” who sought to profit from the pandemic. Mr Perdue has since refused to debate Mr Ossoff on two occasions.

“Senator Perdue does not manage his transactions, they are handled by external financial advisers without his input or prior approval,” said a spokesperson for Mr. Perdue in response to the report on Mr. Perdue’s transactions in stocks from the Navy contractor, BWX. Technologies.

Mr Perdue bought a total of $ 38,000 to $ 305,000 from BWX on dates when prices averaged around $ 40 per share and never closed above $ 43, according to a Times analysis of the deposits. of the Senate. He sold his shares on dates in 2019 when prices averaged over $ 50 per share and never closed below $ 49. Deposits only give a range of value for stock transactions, making it impossible to know how many stocks are being bought and sold

Mr. Perdue bought his shares of BWX, which supplies nuclear components and fuel for submarines and aircraft carriers, in the six weeks before the January 2019 announcement of his appointment as the chair of the subcommittee Senate Armed Services SeaPower.

Mr. Perdue sold his positions in BWX between February and July 2019. In June of that year, he announced that he had helped secure additional funding for the Navy in the National Defense Authorization Act. of 2020, including money for an additional submarine.

As chairman of the subcommittee, Mr. Perdue has been a strong supporter of increasing Navy spending. “In the age of great power competition, there is no doubt that our navy needs to grow and become more capable,” he said at a committee meeting in December 2019, after selling his BWX shares.

While not officially banned, individual stock transactions by members of Congress have long raised questions, according to Kedric Payne, general counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, a non-partisan watchdog group.

“This is just a perfect example of why many members of Congress have decided on their own not to trade individual stocks, even though there is no evidence of insider trading. This always begs the question whether his official actions are somehow motivated by personal interest.

“David Perdue’s corruption and personal transactions are flagrant,” Ossoff said in response to the Daily Beast article. “He openly uses his office to fill his own pockets. This conduct is totally inexcusable. “

BWX Technologies spokesperson Jud Simmons said the company was unaware that Mr. Perdue was a shareholder until recent media reports. “Like other companies, BWX Technologies is not aware of and does not control purchases of its shares by individuals,” said Mr. Simmons.

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Navy commandos save American kidnapped in Niger

WASHINGTON – U.S. Special Operations Commandos conducted a pre-dawn raid on Saturday to rescue a U.S. citizen who was kidnapped this week from his home in southern Niger.

Commandos from the Navy’s elite SEAL Team 6 rescued American Philip Walton, 27, after tracking attackers’ phones to a hideout in neighboring northern Nigeria, officials said Americans.

“US forces carried out a hostage rescue operation in the early hours of October 31 in northern Nigeria to recover an American citizen held hostage by a group of armed men,” Jonathan Hoffman, the main gate, said on Saturday. – speech from the Pentagon.

Mr Hoffman, who did not identify Mr Walton by name, said he “was safe and is now in the custody of the US State Department”. Another official said Mr Walton was taken to a US air base in Niamey, the capital of Niger, to be reunited with his family.

Mr. Hoffman said no US serviceman was injured during the operation. Several of the kidnappers were killed in the raid, US officials said.

Mr. Walton, the son of missionaries, lives with his wife and young daughter on a farm near Massalata, a small village near the border with Nigeria. US and Nigerien officials said Mr Walton was arrested in his backyard in front of family members on Monday after attackers demanded money. He offered them $ 40 and was then taken away by gunmen on motorcycles, officials said. The kidnappers demanded nearly a million dollars in ransom for Mr. Walton’s release.

A US official said the attackers were criminals who intended to sell Mr. Walton to terrorist groups in the region. The operation was organized quickly with the help of officials in Niger and Nigeria, the official said.

According to US officials, the rescue began just after midnight local time early Saturday when about 30 Navy commandos parachuted into the remote area where the kidnappers had taken Mr Walton. Members of the rescue team traveled about three miles until they encountered the kidnappers’ small encampment in a thicket of scrubland bushes and trees.

During the brief but intense shootout that followed, all but one of half a dozen kidnappers were killed. A kidnapper escaped during the night. Mr Walton was not injured in the shooting and he went to a makeshift landing zone, where an American helicopter took him to safety.

Several Westerners are currently hostages in the region. Among them, the American aid worker Jeffery Woodke, who was kidnapped in the town of Abalak, in central Nigeria, in October 2016 and allegedly taken to neighboring Mali.

Mr Walton’s kidnapping was just the latest spasm of violence in Africa’s Sahel region, which has seen a growing torrent of attacks from Islamic State and Qaeda affiliates, particularly in the Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

Six French aid workers and their Nigerien guide were killed by Islamic extremists in August while visiting an animal park near Niamey. An ambush in October 2017 near the Niger-Mali border killed four American soldiers.

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Navy plane crashes in Alabama, killing 2 crew

On Friday afternoon, a Navy plane crashed in a residential area in southern Alabama, killing its two crew members, the Navy said.

The plane fell next to a house near Foley, Ala., A coastal area about 30 miles southeast of Mobile, Ala., Officials said. No civilians on the ground were injured, according to Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office said.

The plane was a T-6B Texan IIsaid the Navy. The type of aircraft is often used to train Navy and Marine Corps pilots, according to the Navy website.

The two pilots on the plane were an instructor and a student, said Cmdr. Zach Harrell, a spokesperson for the Naval Air Force. The Navy said it would not release the names of the pilots until 24 hours after notification of next of kin.

The plane took off from Whiting Field Air Force Base in Santa Rosa County, Fla., About 60 miles northeast of where it crashed, he said.

The crash, which happened at around 4:20 p.m., sent debris toward a house, setting it on fire, said Joseph Darby, chief of the Foley fire department. The two occupants of the house at the time escaped, Chief Darby said.

Two vehicles and the “remains of the plane” were destroyed in the fire, he said. Fire crews were able to put out the blaze quickly, he said, preventing it from spreading to other homes on the street.

James Farris, who lives across the street from the house that caught fire, said he saw the crash through his home office window. He often hears training planes flying overhead, he said, but Friday afternoon’s plane was flying low.

“It sounded like the Blue Angels,” he said, referring to the group of Navy jets that perform aerial displays. “He was flying very low.”

As Mr. Farris searched for the plane, he saw it stick his nose into the ground.

“On impact, it exploded,” he said, adding that he fired a “big ball of flame” towards the house which caught fire. “When the fuel exploded, he entered this house,” he said.

The two people who escaped from the house that caught fire were a father and a daughter, he said.

The Department of Defense is investigating the crash, the sheriff’s office said.