No service members were injured in the raid.
“This American citizen is safe and is now in the care of the U.S. Department of State,” said Jonathan Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs. “The United States will continue to protect our people and our interests anywhere in the world.”
The assailants forced Philip Nathan Watson, 27, from his farm in remote Massalata on Tuesday, demanding more than $1 million from his family members, who are missionaries.
Otherwise, they threatened to sell the captive to extremists, said a U.S. official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have made tens of millions of dollars from kidnappings in recent years, analysts say.
The extremists gained a foothold nearly a decade ago in the Sahel, which lies just south of the Sahara Desert, after the Libyan government collapsed and mercenaries once employed by Moammar Gaddafi streamed into neighboring Mali.
Violence has since spilled into Niger and Burkina Faso, turning once peaceful countrysides into conflict zones.
Watson’s abduction came two months after Islamic State fighters ambushed a giraffe sanctuary near Niger’s capital, Niamey, killing seven aid workers and their local guide.
The nation’s military has partnered with French and regional troops to fight rising extremism in West Africa. More than 5,000 people have died in the unrest this year alone, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, which tracks the casualties.
Hundreds of American soldiers are stationed at two bases in Niger, a country of roughly 24 million. U.S. forces normally provide training and intelligence support in the region. Saturday’s operation was extremely rare, the official said.
“We got our young man back, but the other side suffered gravely,” Trump said during remarks at a campaign event in Bucks County, Pa., without giving further details on the mission.
“I can tell you that our nation salutes its courageous military, which brilliantly executed this operation. Very few people would have been able to do it,” Trump continued. “It was very complicated, a very complex, tough area.”
Another American kidnapped in Niger is still missing.
Jeffrey Rey Woodke, a 59-year-old Christian aid worker, remains in captivity four years after Islamic State militants snatched him in the country’s northern desert.
His wife, Els Woodke, urged his captors to free him this spring as the world battled the coronavirus pandemic.
“I would say, ‘Please consider Jeff’s age and what is going on in the world,’ ” she told ABC News. “It’s not good to keep captives. Send him home.”
Four hostages held by insurgents in Mali were freed last month in an apparent exchange for about 200 prisoners suspected of working with the extremist groups.
The government — newly formed after an August coup d’etat — negotiated the release of a prominent Malian politician, a French aid worker and two Italians: a priest and a tourist.
It’s unclear whether ransoms were paid.
Colby Itkowitz in Washington contributed to this report.