MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — U.S. military forces flew in helicopters under the cover of darkness on a raid into Somalia early Wednesday and freed an American and a Dane held hostage, Western officials said. Pirates reported a gun battle with several casualties.
The Danish Refugee Council confirmed that the two aid workers, American Jessica Buchanan and Dane Poul Hagan Thisted, were freed "during an operation in Somalia." Buchanan and Thisted had been working with a de-mining unit of the Danish Refugee Council when they were kidnapped in Somalia in October.
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 Danish Refugee Council said both freed hostages 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 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the Somali town of Adow.
The Danish Refugee Council had earlier enlisted traditional Somali elders and members of civil society to seek the release of the two hostages.
Associated Press reporter Jason Straziuso contributed to this report.