SecDef Offers Sparse Details on American Woman Recovered in Secretive Military Op

Defense Secretary Esper briefs the media about the department's COVID-19 response.
FILE -- Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper briefs the media about the department's COVID-19 response, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., March 17, 2020. (DoD/Lisa Ferdinando)

The U.S. military conducted an operation to bring home an American woman who had been the victim of a violent crime in Honduras, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Monday.

Esper was deliberately vague on the details, but said, "We had a young lady, a young American, who was the victim of a violent crime in Honduras, I believe. She has been returned to the United States."

He did not say when or how the woman was brought out safely from Honduras, which has closed its borders during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"Out of respect for her and her family, for her privacy, we'll just leave it at that," Esper added at a Pentagon briefing.

He noted that the military last Friday flew home an American women's tackle football team, which had been in Honduras for a competition that was canceled because of the coronavirus threat.

Related: American Woman Rescued in Secretive Military Op, Trump Says

U.S. Southern Command said in a Twitter post that two Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft returned the football team to Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, but it was unclear whether the crime victim was on one of those flights.

Esper spoke a day after President Donald Trump at a White House news conference said the woman had been "horribly treated" and appeared to indicate that a dramatic rescue may have been involved in her return to the U.S.

"We were able to get a young woman released from a certain area who was being horribly accosted, horribly treated," the president added.

Trump said that Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley "took care of it. We went in and we got her out, but that was rough stuff." He thanked Milley "and all the people involved and people who went in to get her," but did not say whether the woman had been held hostage.

Following the late Sunday White House news conference, Pentagon officials and Milley's office declined comment and referred questions to the White House.

The return of the woman and the football team underline the plight of thousands of American tourists and students who have been stranded overseas by the closing of borders by the U.S. and other countries hit by the outbreak.

Some of the stranded citizens have posted Facebook pages such as "Americans Stuck in Peru" and "American Citizens Stranded In Guatemala."

On Sunday, the State Department said that two flights had been chartered to bring Americans out of Guatemala and could possibly arrive Monday.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at

Read more: The Military's Response to COVID-19

Show Full Article