Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Seals Rescue Somalia Hostages Nine Kidnappers Killed during Raid

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Seals Rescue Somalia Hostages Nine Kidnappers Killed during Raid

Article excerpt

MOGADISHU, Somalia -- The Navy SEALs parachuted into the darkness, landing more than a mile from their objective: a small bush camp in north-central Somalia where an American aid worker and a Danish colleague were being held captive.

The commandos, several dozen in all, shed their chutes and moved quietly through the brush.

The compound had been under secret U.S. surveillance for weeks after an intelligence tip had signaled the whereabouts of the hostages, 32-year-old Ohio native Jessica Buchanan and 60-year-old Poul Thisted.

But investigators believed that Ms. Buchanan's health was failing, and that she might suffer kidney failure. "We were told that she was not well and, left untreated, her condition could be life-threatening," said a senior U.S. official.

About 2 a.m. local time Wednesday, the SEALs stormed the kidnappers' compound. In the ensuing firefight, they killed nine people and rescued the pair without injury.

The hostages and SEALs were picked up by helicopters, which flew to an airstrip at the Somali town of Galkayo, 60 miles north of the encampment. There the hostages were transferred to a U.S. military plane and flown to Djibouti.

Pentagon officials defended the decision to kill the hostage takers, arguing that they were armed, and that explosives were found at the camp. The SEALs could have taken prisoners, but they were operating under rules of engagement that permitted use of deadly force if their lives or those of the hostages were threatened.

The dramatic rescue, by SEALs from the same special operations unit that killed Osama bin Laden in his Pakistan hideout in May, reflects how much has changed about U.S. capabilities in Somalia. In 1993, the U.S. military retreated from a failed peacekeeping mission after losing 18 Americans and two Black Hawk helicopters in a fierce battle in the capital, Mogadishu. …

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