Va. woman freed from Somali pirates in U.S. military raid

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Obama issued a story early on Wednesday morning, saying "last night I spoke with Jessica Buchanan’s father and told him that all Americans have Jessica in our thoughts and prayers, and give thanks that she will soon be reunited with her family."

Poul Hogen Thistead and Jessica Buchanan were freed during a U.S. military raid in Somalia. (Photo: Associated Press)

"The United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people, and will spare no effort to secure the safety of our citizens and to bring their captors to justice," the president added.

The gunman had reportedly refused $1.5 million to let the hostages go and negotiations had come to a stand-still.

The Danish Refugee Council said both freed hostages are unharmed "and at a safe location."

The group said in a separate statement that the two "are on their way to be reunited with their families."

Pirates took hostages in October

The two aid workers appear to have been kidnapped by criminals - sometimes referred to as pirates - and not by Somalia's al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab.

As large ships at sea have increased their defenses against pirate attacks, gangs have looked for other money making opportunities like land-based kidnappings.

A pirate who gave his name as Bile 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 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the Somali town of Adado.

Maj. Kelly Cahalan, a military spokeswoman at U.S. Africa Command in Stuttgart, Germany, said she had no information on the raid.

A spokeswoman at the Pentagon had no immediate comment.

U.S. military rescue operations are typically carried out by highly trained special forces.

The Danish Refugee Council had earlier enlisted traditional Somali elders and members of civil society to seek the release of the two hostages.

The two were seized in October from the portion of Galkayo town under the control of a government-allied clan militia.

The aid agency has said that Somalis held demonstrations demanding the pair's quick release.

Their Somali colleague was detained by police on suspicion of being involved in their kidnapping.

The two hostages were working in northern Somalia for the Danish Demining Group, whose experts have been clearing mines and unexploded ordnance in conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East.

Several hostages are still being held in Somalia, including a British tourist and two Spanish doctors seized from neighboring Kenya, and an American journalist kidnapped on Saturday.

Associated Press reporter Jason Straziuso in Nairobi, Kenya, contributed to this report. Houreld reported from Nairobi.

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