American, Dane Safe After U.S. Rescue Operation in Somalia

Posted January 25th, 2012 at 12:45 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. military officials say two Westerners — an American and a Danish national — are safe after being rescued from gunmen in Somalia by U.S. special operations troops.

The Pentagon said Wednesday that the American, Jessica Buchanan, is being cared for at a military hospital, reportedly in Djibouti. She suffers from an undisclosed medical ailment.

Buchanan and fellow aid worker Poul Thisted, a Dane, had been held for three months by gunmen in central Somalia. Wednesday night, U.S. special forces traveling in helicopters descended on a camp northwest of Mogadishu and confronted the kidnappers, killing at least nine of them.

A Pentagon spokesman said the troops came prepared to detain the kidnappers but never got the opportunity.

In announcing the rescue, President Barack Obama said the United States will “spare no effort to secure the safety of our citizens” and bring to justice those who seek to harm them.

On a Wednesday morning news program, Vice President Joseph Biden praised the troops who carried out the mission.

He says the timing of the operation was based in part on the health of the hostages.

“They said it was the time, the opportunity, Jessica's health was, was at a word, failing. They concluded they should go at this time. The president gave the go.”

Buchanan and Thisted worked for the Danish Demining Group, a unit of the Danish Refugee Council that helps clear landmines and other explosives in conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East. They were kidnapped in October in the central Somali city of Galkayo.

The raid took place just hours before President Obama gave his State of the Union address in Washington. Before speaking, President Obama could be heard by television microphones congratulating Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, apparently for the success of the rescue operation.

The Department of Defense is not identifying the unit that carried out the rescue. However, many news organizations, quoting unnamed U.S. government officials, say it was a Navy SEAL team.

Officials say armed criminals, or pirates, appear to be responsible for the kidnapping. Somali pirates have increasingly carried out land-based kidnappings as foreign governments have boosted security on the high seas.

Several abductions for ransom have been carried out in Somalia and northern Kenya during the past several months. An American man was kidnapped near the Galkayo airport last week.