MOGADISHU, Somalia – U.S. military forces flew in helicopters under the cover of darkness on a raid into Somalia early today and freed an American and a Dane held hostage, Western officials said. Pirates reported a gunbattle with several casualties.
The Danish Refugee Council confirmed that hostages Jessica Buchanan – an American – and Poul Hagan Thisted – a Dane – were freed “during an operation in Somalia.”
An official told the Associated Press that the raid was carried out by U.S. military forces. A second official said the helicopters and the hostages landed at a U.S. base in the tiny East African nation of Djibouti after the raid. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the information had not been released publicly.
Maj. Kelly Cahalan, a military spokeswoman at U.S. Africa Command in Stuttgart, Germany, said she had no information on the reported raid. A spokeswoman at the Pentagon had no immediate comment.
The two hostages had been held in Somalia since October. The Danish Refugee Council said both are unharmed “and at a safe location.”
A pirate who gave his name as Bilal Hussein said he had spoken to pirates at the scene of the raid and they reported that nine pirates had been killed. A second pirate who gave his name as Ahmed Hashi said two helicopters attacked at about 2 a.m. at the site where the hostages were being held about 12 miles north of the Somali town of Adow.