Two hostages freed, nine Somali pirates killed

Nine Somali pirates have been killed by U.S. forces in the daring rescue of two aid workers kidnapped on shore on October 25, 2011.

Jessica Buchanan, an American, and Poul Hagen Thisted, a Dane, were kidnapped by two truckloads of gunmen as they headed to the airport in Galkaiyo, a central Somalia town on the edge of pirate territory. The two were working for the Danish Refugee Counci's land mine removal operations in Somalia.

The New York Times reports that Somali officials immediately suspected that a local employee had tipped off the gunmen and it "soon emerged that the men holding the aid workers were part of a well-established pirate gang."

The Times comments that "as Somalia’s pirates have a harder time hijacking ships on the high seas, because of the beefed up naval efforts, they are increasingly turning to snatching foreigners on land."

In the rescue, U.S. military forces helicoptered into Somalia in a nighttime raid Wednesday and freed the two hostages.

Fox News quotes a pirate who gave his name as Bile Hussein as saying 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 Adado.

The Danish Refugee Council issued a statement today saying:

"The Danish Refugee Council hereby confirms that Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted have been rescued earlier today during an operation in Somalia. American Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted from Denmark are on their way to be reunited with their families.

"After being held hostage for three months American citizen Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted from Denmark have today successfully been rescued from their kidnappers in Somalia.

"The two aid workers from the Danish Refugee Council’s demining unit, DDG, are both unharmed and at a safe location.

January 25, 2012