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U.S. Navy SEALs Free 2 Western Hostages From Somali Captors

January 25, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
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JEFFREY BROWN: An American woman and a Danish man were free today after U.S. commandos whisked them away from their pirate captors in Somalia. The operation unfolded in secret, even as President Obama made ready to address the nation.

The first hint of action came in the president’s cryptic greeting to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta just before delivering the State of the Union address last night.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Good job tonight. Good job tonight.

JEFFREY BROWN: The president said nothing else during his speech, but confirmation came several hours later.

U.S. Navy SEALs had raided a site near Adado in central Somalia. They freed two aid workers who’d been kidnapped from another town, Galkayo, three months ago. At the time, American Jessica Buchanan and her Danish colleague, Poul Thisted, had been part of a project to clear land mines.

Today, they were being reunited with their families. Emerging accounts said the SEALs parachuted in, and took the sleeping pirates by surprise, killing nine. There were no American casualties.

Vice President Biden praised the operation this morning on ABC.

VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: It just takes your breath away, their capacity and their bravery and their incredible timing.

JEFFREY BROWN: The raiders were from SEAL Team 6, the same unit that killed Osama bin Laden at his compound in Pakistan last May.

The president approved the Somalia mission on Monday. In his own statement today, he said, “This is yet another message to the world that the United States of America will stand strongly against any threats to our people.”

There have been other raids against Somali pirates in recent years to combat their hijackings of ships at sea. The piracy problem is part of the larger lawlessness that has gripped Somalia for decades and left it a broken state.