Wednesday, January 25, 2012

U.S. Navy SEALs Rescue Hostages in Daring Overnight Raid in Somalia

This is rad.

At New York Times, "U.S. Forces Rescue Two Hostages From Somali Pirates":

KHARTOUM, Sudan — American Navy Seals swooped into Somalia early on Wednesday and rescued two aid workers, an American woman and a Danish man, after a shootout with Somali gunmen who had been holding them captive in a sweltering desert hideout for months.

Under a cloak of darkness, a couple of dozen Seals parachuted in, stormed the hideout, killed nine gunmen and then whisked the aid workers into waiting helicopters, Pentagon officials said. The Seals were from the same elite Navy commando unit — Seal Team Six — that secretly entered Pakistan to kill Osama Bin Laden in May, senior American officials said, though the rescue mission in Somalia was carried out by a different assault team within the unit.

President Obama was closely tracking the raid on Tuesday night, which was Wednesday morning in Somalia, and as he stepped into the House chamber to deliver his State of the Union address, he looked right at Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta standing in the crowd and said: “Leon, good job tonight, good job.”

The hostages were safe and soon flown to an American military base in neighboring Djibouti. No Seals were hurt during the operation, Pentagon officials said.

Mr. Obama seems to have taken a special interest in this case, presiding over several high-level meetings on it since the two aid workers were kidnapped in October by gunmen whom Somali elders said were part of a well-established pirate gang.

Pirates operate with total impunity in many parts of lawless Somalia, which has languished without a functioning government for more than 20 years. As naval efforts have intensified on the high seas, stymieing hijackings, Somali pirates seem to be increasingly snatching foreigners on land. Just last week, pirates grabbed another American hostage not far from where the Seal raid took place.

American officials said they were moved to strike in this case because they had received “actionable intelligence” that the health of Jessica Buchanan, the American aid worker, was rapidly deteriorating. The gunmen had just refused $1.5 million to let the two hostages go, Somali elders said, and ransom negotiations had ground to a halt.

Somali pirates have held hostages for months, often in punishing conditions with little food, water or shelter, and past ransoms have topped more than $10 million. One British couple sailing around the world on a little sailboat was kidnapped by pirates from this same patch of central Somalia and held in captivity for more than a year.

President Obama said that he had personally authorized the go-ahead for the operation on Monday. “As commander in chief, I could not be prouder of the troops who carried out this mission,” he said in a statement on Wednesday. “The United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people.”
Also at Telegraph UK, "US special forces team behind Osama bin Laden death rescue aid workers from Somali pirates."