US Special Forces rescue hostages in Somalia in daring raid

US Special Forces rescue hostages in Somalia in daring raid

Helicopter-borne elite US Navy Seals struck deep into Somalia in a daring pre-dawn raid and freed two hostages -- an American woman aidworker and a Dane -- after a shootout with pirates holding them, leaving at least nine gunmen dead, a rare mission in the restive African nation.

US special forces swooped into Somalia early on January 25, 2012 to rescue two aid workers, an American woman and a Danish man held hostage for the past three months. US Navy SEALs aboard at least six military helicopters flew in low over central Somalia to surprise the kidnappers in a pre-dawn raid, killing several in a gunbattle, several officials said. AFP PHOTO

The secret operation to secure the safe release of 32-year-old Jessica Buchanan, an American citizen employed by the Danish Demining Group, and her Danish colleague Poul Thisted, 60, was carried out at the order of President Barack Obama.

The two were abducted at gunpoint by pirates near Galcayo in the semi-autonomous Galmudug region of Somalia on October 25, 2011. "Thanks to the extraordinary courage and capabilities of our Special Operations Forces, Jessica Buchanan was rescued and she is on her way home," Obama said in a statement issued after the raid in the wee hours today.

"As Commander-in-Chief, I could not be prouder of the troops who carried out this mission, and the dedicated professionals who supported their efforts," he said. Obama said Buchanan was selflessly serving her fellow human beings when she was taken hostage by criminals and pirates who showed no regard for her health and well-being.

Last night, Obama spoke to Buchanan's father. "The United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people, and will spare no effort to secure the safety of our citizens and to bring their captors to justice," Obama said, adding that this is yet another message to the world that America will stand strongly against any threats to its people.

According to US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, Buchanan and Thisted have been transported to a safe location where their health is being evaluated and arrangements made for them to return home. "This successful hostage rescue, undertaken in a hostile environment, is a testament to the superb skills of courageous service members who risked their lives to save others. I applaud their efforts, and I am pleased that Ms Buchanan and Mr Thisted were not harmed during the operation," he said.

There was no loss of life or injuries to US forces engaged in this operation. Mohamed Ahmed Aalin, President of Galmudug state, was quoted as saying by CNN that nine gunmen were killed and five others detained by US forces.

During the raid, Seals parachuted from a plane into an area near the compound where the two hostages were being held, BBC said in its report. Shots were fired as the team approached the compound, but there were no US casualties.

The rescue team was on the ground for about an hour and the raid was over by 03:00 am local time (05:30 IST), it said. Afterwards, the two freed hostages and the Seals left the area by helicopter for the nearby tiny Horn of Africa state of Djibouti, where the US has a military presence, it said, adding they were taken to Camp Lemonnier.