Details emerge of SEAL rescue raid in Somalia

American aid worker Jessica Buchanan is seen in a photo from the Danish Refugee Council. Buchanan and a Danish colleague were freed from kidnappers in Somalia during a U.S. military on Jan. 24, 2012.
Danish Refugee Council

More details are emerging about the rescue by U.S. Navy SEALs of two aid workers, an American and a Dane, in a daring nighttime operation in Somalia this past weekend.

Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted had been held by pirates since being kidnapped in October.

Buchanan was in Italy on her way home, recovering from her ordeal, and an undisclosed illness.

Early on Wednesday, two teams from SEAL Team 6 - the same unit that killed Osama bin Laden - parachuted under the cover of darkness out of an Air Force C-130 transport plane into the Somali city of Cadaado.

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From there, they hiked nearly two miles to an encampment, where nine pirates were killed. The SEALs suffered no injuries. Army helicopters then picked up the SEALS and Buchanan and Thisted and flew them safely to the African nation of Djibouti.

Howard Wasdin, a former member of SEAL Team 6, says, "The fact that they were able to get in, get both of these hostages out (kill all of their captors) and not get an American killed is just a tribute to how good these guys really are, how well-trained they really are."

Jessica's father John Buchanan - who spoke to his daughter Tuesday night - tells CBS News, "she was emotional, but she's good. She's got some health issues, not life threatening. She'll be fine. She said, 'Daddy, I love you, and I'll be fine.'"

Buchanan and Thisted were abducted while working for a Danish aid group. The kidnappers reached out to the families through the aid organization, demanding ransom. The families then used private negotiators, who worked in tandem with U.S. officials to try to secure their release.

"The FBI were looking over their shoulder the whole time," John Buchanan told CBS News. "They were efficient, they were kind, they were just on top of everything."

New intelligence that Buchanan's health had gotten worse prompted the decision to use military force.

Meanwhile, half a world a way, President Obama was preparing his State of the Union address when he got word that SEAL Team 6 had rescued the two hostages.

Following the speech, a White House staffer phoned John Buchanan and told him to wait for an important call.

"It was 40 minutes of not knowing what that call would be," said John Buchanan. "A guy came on the phone and said, Mr. Buchanan, the next voice you'll hear will be the president of the United States.' I said, 'O.K.' He said, 'John, this is Barack Obama. I've got some really good news for you. Your daughter, Jessica, has been rescued and evacuated by our SEAL team and she's on her way home."'

It's expected that Buchanan will be reunited with her family in the coming days.

"I'm just thrilled that she's O.K. and she's back," said the relieved father. "It sounds corny, but I really am proud to be an American. We are the greatest country in the world."

  • John Miller

    John Miller is a senior correspondent for CBS News, with extensive experience in intelligence, law enforcement and journalism, including stints in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the FBI.