Defense Media Network

Hostages in Somalia freed by U.S. Special Operations Forces

On Tuesday night, as President Barack Obama was making his State of the Union Address, U.S. special operations forces were concluding a joint operation to free two hostages in Somalia.

The two hostages, American Jessica Buchanan and Dane Poul Thisted, had been kidnapped in October 2011 while working in Somalia with the Danish Demining Group.

According to the few details released by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), there were no casualties among the captives or the special operations forces who carried out the operation, while all nine Somali captors were killed.

We will follow up on this story when more concrete information is available from official sources.

In the meantime, Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta issued the following statements, the most interesting aspect of which may be Panetta’s special mention of the FBI, illustrating again the intersection between civilian intelligence and investigative agencies and the DoD today, a topic covered in greater depth in the upcoming print edition of Defense.


Statement by President Barack Obama on Successful Hostage Rescue

On Monday, I authorized an operation to rescue Jessica Buchanan, an American citizen who was kidnapped and held against her will for three months in Somalia. Thanks to the extraordinary courage and capabilities of our special operations forces, yesterday Jessica Buchanan was rescued and she is on her way home. 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.

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. Last night I spoke with Jessica Buchanan’s father and told him that all Americans have Jessica in our thoughts and prayers, and give thanks that she will soon be reunited with her family. 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. This is yet another message to the world that the United States of America will stand strongly against any threats to our people.

Statement by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on Hostage Rescue Operation in Somalia

Last night U.S. Special Operations Forces conducted, by order of the President of the United States, a successful mission in Somalia to rescue two individuals taken hostage on October 25, 2011. Ms. Jessica Buchanan, an American citizen employed by the Danish Demining Group, and her Danish colleague, Mr. Poul Thisted, were kidnapped at gunpoint by criminal suspects near Galcayo, Somalia.

Ms. Buchanan and Mr. Thisted have been transported to a safe location where we will evaluate their health and make arrangements 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.  This mission demonstrates our military’s commitment to the safety of our fellow citizens wherever they may be around the world.

I am grateful to report that there was no loss of life or injuries to our personnel.

I express my deepest gratitude to all the military and civilian men and women who supported this operation.  This was a team effort and required close coordination, especially between the Department of Defense and our colleagues in the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  They are heroes and continue to inspire all of us by their bravery and service to our nation.