US Navy SEAL Somalia raid freed aid workers
BARACK Obama warned that he would "spare no effort to secure the safety" of Americans held hostage abroad as he praised special forces troops who freed a US aid worker and her Danish colleague from Somali pirates.
President Obama personally ordered the unprecedented mission to rescue Jessica Buchanan, 32, and Poul Thisted, 60, from the gang who kidnapped them three months ago.
As many as six helicopters were involved in the operation in the early hours of Wednesday.
Two US Navy SEAL teams landed deep in Somalia’s pirate heartlands and released the aid workers unharmed. Nine pirates died and five were taken captive during the raid.
“I could not be prouder of the troops who carried out this mission, and the dedicated professionals who supported their efforts,” President Obama said in a statement. He said he authorised the operation, the first of its kind in Somalia, on Monday.
“Jessica 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,” the president added.
“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.”
Armed men seized Miss Buchanan, from Virginia, and Mr Thisted three months ago as they were visiting projects in central Somalia working to clear minefields following the country’s civil war.
The aid workers' security guards, hired to protect them, were alleged to have colluded with pirate gangs to arrange the kidnapping.
The timing of Wednesday’s raid may have been made more urgent by a medical condition.
The Danish Refugee Council, the pair's employers, had been trying without success to win the hostages' release through talks with Somali elders.
“One of the hostages has a disease that was very serious and that had to be solved,” Villy Soevndal, Denmark's foreign minister, told the country’s TV2 channel, without giving more details.
Doctors at the US military base in Djibouti, the Red Sea state from where the operation was launched, were carrying out medical checks on the aid workers on Wednesday. They will be flown home soon, their employers said.
There were concerns, however, that the mission could have jeopardised the safety of another American, Michael Scott Moore, a journalist, who was kidnapped in the same area last week. He was still being held on Wednesday.