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Americans held hostage: a challenge for Joe Biden

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Americans held hostage: a challenge for Joe Biden 1

Last month’s heroic rescue of a US hostage, Philip Walton, in Nigeria serves as a sharp reminder: Other Americans remain in captivity abroad unjustly, too, and the nation shouldn’t rest until every one of them is home.

Walton’s rescue was absolutely spectacular: The elite SEAL team parachuted down a few miles from the target and killed a number of Walton’s captors, without suffering any US casualties. President Trump rightly praised “our country’s brave warriors” for the “daring nighttime rescue.”

“The kidnappers wished they had never done it. We got our American citizen . . .  but the other side suffered gravely,” he said.

Yet Walton’s rescue shines a bright light on other Americans being held hostage around the world, several in Syria alone:

•  Austin Tice, a former Marine officer, freelance journalist and Georgetown University Law Center student who disappeared in 2012 after spending a summer reporting there.

• Majd Kamalmaz, a Syrian-American therapist, who vanished after being stopped at a Syrian checkpoint in 2017. At least four others are also thought to be held by the Syrian regime.

Good news: For the first time in a decade-plus, a top White House official, Kash Patel, recently held secret talks with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus in a bid to secure the release of at least two hostages, The Wall Street Journal reported. It was a vital mission — but just a start.

Meanwhile, the exact number of political prisoners held elsewhere is classified, but the names of some are known:

• Paul Whelan, a 50-year-old US Marine detained in Russia in 2018, accused of being a foreign agent and in possession of a USB drive containing classified information.

• The CITGO-6 — five US citizens and one legal resident detained in Venezuela: Alirio Zambrano and his brother Luis Zambrano, and former CITGO vice presidents Jorge Toledo, Tomeu Vadell, Gustavo Cardenas and President Jose Pereira.

• Alyssa Petersen and Jacob Harlan, who operated China Horizons, an English-teaching program and were arrested near Shanghai in 2019. Chinese police say the two were “illegally moving people across borders.” John Cao, a 60-year-old North Carolina pastor who’s also a legal resident of China, was arrested on the same charge and sentenced to seven years in 2018.

• Siamak Namazi, a dual US-Iran citizen, who’s been detained since 2015, after visiting relatives in Tehran. His father, Baquer Namazi, an ex-UNICEF official, was also detained and held since 2016.

The US doesn’t abandon citizens; it fights on till they’re home. When Joe Biden takes office, here’s hoping he remembers that.

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