US military operation frees American, Danish hostages from Somali pirates

By Abdi Sheikh, Reuters

MOGADISHU–U.S. helicopters swooped into Somalia on Wednesday and rescued an American and a Dane after a shootout with pirates holding them hostage, in a rare raid into the Horn of Africa nation to free foreign captives.

American Jessica Buchanan and Dane Poul Hagen Thisted were kidnapped from the town of Galkayo in the semi-autonomous Galmudug region in October while working for the Danish Demining Group (DDG). “The Danish Refugee Council hereby confirms that Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted have been rescued earlier today during an operation in Somalia,” the aid group said in a statement, adding that the two were unharmed at a safe location. Somali pirate gangs typically seize ships in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden and hold the crews until they receive a ransom. The kidnapping of the aid workers in Galkayo was an unusual case of a pirate gang being behind a seizure on land. While U.S. and French forces have intervened to rescue pirate hostages at sea, attacks on pirate bases are very rare. The only U.S. military base in Africa, and France’s largest on the continent, are both in neighboring Djibouti. Galmudug President Mohamed Ahmed Alim told Reuters nine pirates were killed and five captured during the rescue operation near the pirate haven of Haradheere. Alim was speaking from Hobyo, another pirate base north of Haradheere, where he said he was negotiating the release of an American journalist seized on Saturday, also from Galkayo. “About 12 U.S. helicopters are now at Galkayo. We thank the U.S. Pirates have spoilt the whole region’s peace and ethics. They are mafia,” Alim said.