WASHINGTON, Jan. 25, 2012 — Special operations forces rescued an American woman and Danish man who had been held captive in Somalia for three months, President Barack Obama announced early this morning.
Both are well and are in a secure location, and there were no American casualties in the operation.
Jessica Buchanan and Poul Thisted were working as part of a Danish demining group when Somali criminals kidnapped them near Galcayo, Somalia, on Oct. 25, according to a statement from Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta. Galcayo is near the border with Ethiopia. There was no word where the two were held.
“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,” Panetta said in the statement. “I applaud their efforts, and I am pleased that Ms. Buchanan and Mr. Thisted were not harmed during the operation.”
The president said he had spoken with Buchanan’s father and told him that all Americans are thankful that his daughter is safe and will soon be home.
“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 in his statement. “This is yet another message to the world that the United States of America will stand strongly against any threats to our people.”
Panetta stressed the rescue was a team effort and required close coordination between the Defense Department and the FBI. “They are heroes and continue to inspire all of us by their bravery and service to our nation,” Panetta wrote.
The Danish Demining Group trains local people to defuse and render safe landmines and other ordnance left in the wake of war. In addition to Somalia, the group is working in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Liberia, South Sudan and Uganda.
At the beginning of the president’s State of the Union address last night, TV cameras caught Obama shaking Panetta’s hand and saying “Good job.” No one knew then what he was talking about.
During his address, Obama lauded service members’ commitment and ability to work together. The rescue operation is another example of that.
“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,” the president said in his statement.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)