Locals celebrate man's release from captivity in Yemen

U.S. negotiations reunite Danny Burch with family in Middle East

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It’s been 18 months since Danny Burch was kidnapped in broad daylight of the streets of Sana’a, the capital of Yemen.

The East Texas oilman’s family members in Kilgore, across the country and on the other side of the world are celebrating this week after the White Oak High School graduate’s release from captivity.

He’s the elder brother of Kilgore’s Ron Burch, who was a bit baffled when the Twitter app on his phone started going haywire this week.

Ron’s not a regular user of the social media platform, but he finally launched the program and was caught-off guard by the long-awaited, good news: his brother was alive and free.

President Donald Trump made the announcement on Twitter and in an official White House statement Monday, crediting the support of the United Arab Emirates in bringing Burch home.

“Danny’s recovery reflects the best of what the United States & its partners can accomplish,” the president posted on social media Feb. 25. “We work every day to bring Americans home. We maintain constant and intensive diplomatic, intelligence, and law enforcement cooperation within the United States Government and with our foreign partners.”

In the statement, Trump noted his administration has recovered 20 American captives since he took office.

“We will not rest as we continue our work to bring the remaining American hostages back home!”

Ron and his wife – Kilgore PD Evidence Officer Angela Burch – were soon spreading the word of the Kilgore College graduate’s long-awaited freedom while also fielding calls from local and national media.

“We’d pretty much given up,” Ron said, “after of all this time of not hearing anything.”

Danny Burch accrued decades of experience working in the Middle East, where he has a wife and three young children. The mechanic and cement technician worked most recently for the oil company Safer.

On Sept. 23, 2017, the longtime oilfield veteran was taken from his car by armed gunmen. Following the abduction in Yemen, Burch’s colleagues pointed to Houthi forces in the capital city. The victim’s Yemeni wife, Nadia, told journalists five men wearing civilian clothing stopped Danny Burch’s car and pulled the man into an unmarked pickup.

“He went to drop his kids off at the swimming pool and was on the way back to his house,” Ron said. “That’s when he got abducted.”

Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation informed Burch’s Kilgore relatives the abductors called Nadia Burch, gave her the location and told her the keys were in the vehicle.

“That’s how they learned he’d been kidnapped,” Ron said. “That’s where it went kind of hinky. Who does that?”

Since the initial days following the abduction, there’s been little information, he added. FBI personnel passed on details when they could, but it wasn’t much to go on.

“They said they would keep us informed of the situation if anything arose. They called us once or twice, with no information, but they were still trying,” Ron said. Over time, “It just kind of phased out, and we went about our lives.”

Until this week.

“We’re pleased that he’s free,” Ron said, simply. He’s acting as family spokesman stateside – Danny has four grown children from a previous marriage. “Since they got him free, he’s gone back to Yemen and is with his wife and kids there. He’s not coming back to the ’States.

“It’s just good to know he’s what he considers safe. I don’t consider the Middle East very safe.”

Ron’s grateful for the government’s work on his brother’s behalf, grateful for answered prayers in his safe return.

“I’m glad the government pursued it and kept on it. It seemed like for a while it was on the backburner,” he said, though he understands it takes time: “We just let the government do its work. I worked for them for 15 years, so I know sometimes it’s slow, but it does come around in the long-run.”

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