President Trump on Wednesday welcomed to the Oval Office an American oil worker who had been held in Yemen for almost two years before being released and reunited with his family late last month.
Trump met with Danny Burch, an American engineer at a Yemeni oil company, in a closed-door meeting at the White House, just a little under two weeks since it was announced that Burch had been freed.
“We have Danny Burch back home, where he should be,” Trump said following the meeting. “He was there for 18 months. We got him out. We had great help from [the United Arab Emirates, or UAE] and our friends. We got Danny out.”
Burch is married to a Yemeni national, and the couple have three children. He was 63 when he was kidnapped in September 2017. At the time, his wife told The New York Times that her husband had left their home in the Yemeni city of Sanaa to take their sons to a sports club but never returned. She said police later told her that he'd been stopped by five armed men in civilian clothes who took him away.
Burch, who grew up in Louisiana and East Texas, has spent most of his career as a mechanic in the oil and gas industry. Cale Burch, one of his three children from an earlier marriage, said his father started working in Yemen about 25 years ago, for about a month at a time.
It is still unclear who abducted him, but there is widespread speculation that he was taken by Iran-backed Houthi rebels – an Islamic religious-political-armed movement fighting the government for control of Yemen.
A coalition led by Saudi Arabia, with the UAE a key member, has been fighting the Houthis in Yemen since 2015. A year earlier, Houthis pushed the internationally recognized government out of Sanaa, which is the Yemeni capital.
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the head of Houthis' Revolutionary Committee, said last week that Burch was held by a terrorist group in areas under control of the Saudi-led coalition.
Following his meeting on Tuesday with Trump, Burch was quiet, saying only that “it’s great to be in America again.”
The Trump administration has made bringing home Americans held hostage overseas a foreign policy priority.
“We've gotten a lot of them out. Egypt, many others, North Korea. We have negotiations going on now -- I won't tell you where,” Trump said. “I love doing it. This is the end result, a happy man with a happy family.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.