Two Western hostages have been freed in Somalia, following a daring raid by U.S. military personnel.
The Danish Refugee Council (DRC) identified the two as Jessica Buchanan, an American, and Poul Hagen Thisted of Denmark, who had served as aid workers in the East African nation. They had been held hostage for three months.
U.S. government officials said the rescuers were from the elite Navy Seals forces that were secretly dropped into northern Somalia to conduct the overnight raid. Reportedly, the operation involved a shoot-out between U.S. troops and local militants, resulting in the deaths of eight or nine of the kidnappers.
No U.S. soldiers were hurt in the escapade.
The DRC added that Buchanan, 32, and Thisted, 60. are both unharmed and will soon return to their respective homes and families. After the rescue, Buchanan and Thisted were taken by helicopter to the nearby country of Djibouti, which has a U.S. military base.
U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement that he personally authorized the mission which he said would send another message to the world that the United States of America will stand strongly against any threats to our people.
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, Obama added.
The two hostages had been abducted last October in the town of Galkayo, hundreds of miles north of the Somali capital of Mogadishu.
BBC reported that during the U.S. raid, the hostages were held captive in a locale about 60 miles south of Galkayo -- a semi-autonomous region controlled by forces opposed to the Islamic militant group al-Shabab which dominates much of the country.
U.S. officials told ABC News that the kidnappers were “criminals” not al-Shabab terrorists.
There are at least three other Westerners who are currently held hostage in Somalia, including a British tourist and two Spanish medical specialists.