President Donald Trump, right, shakes hands with Danny Burch, a former U.S. hostage held in Yemen, Wednesday, March 6, 2019, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

'Danny, welcome home': Trump meets American held in Yemen

March 06, 2019 - 2:30 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump welcomed home an American citizen who had been held captive in Yemen for 18 months and hinted Wednesday that more hostage negotiations are underway.

Trump announced last month that Danny Burch had been freed in what the State Department suggested was a rescue operation. He appeared in the Oval Office on Wednesday along with his young son, Vice President Mike Pence and others.

"We have a very big moment because we have Danny Burch back home where he should be," Trump told reporters. "Danny, welcome home."

"Gosh, it's great to be an American," Burch responded amid applause.

Trump has hailed Burch's return as an example of his administration's commitment to freeing Americans held in foreign captivity. And he has sought to highlight the returns in made-for-television events, including a dramatic late-night tarmac scene last May, when he greeted three American freed by North Korea who emerged flashing peace signs in front of a large American flag hoisted between two fire trucks.

That public display stood in stark contrast to the low-key, private reception the State Department had envisioned, in keeping with a practice of trying to protect potentially traumatized victims from being thrust into the spotlight so soon after an ordeal.

Trump also said Wednesday that there are additional negotiations to free detainees "going on right now," but declined to say where, citing concerns about upending talks.

"I won't tell you where because we don't want to blow the negotiation out the window, but we have a few negotiations going," he said. "I love doing it because I love the end result. This is the end result. A happy man with a happy family."

Trump also thanked the United Arab Emirates for its role in reuniting Burch with his family. The White House said Trump spoke with the UAE's crown prince on Wednesday to deliver that message directly.

Yemen has been riven by a deadly civil war since 2015, and Burch's abduction had been blamed on Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

Burch, who is from eastern Texas and is married to a Yemeni national, had lived in the country for years working for an oil company. He was reportedly kidnapped by the rebels in September 2017. His wife told The New York Times that Burch had left their home in the capital, Sanaa, to take their sons to a sports club but never returned.

She said police later told her that Burch had been stopped by five armed men in civilian clothes who took him away.

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