US forces kill nine pirates in raid to free aid workers


TWO KIDNAPPED aid workers were rescued in a daring raid into the Horn of Africa by US Special Forces early yesterday.

Navy Seals (sea, air, and land special forces) killed nine suspected pirates and captured five others during the raid into Somalia, according to western officials.

It was the most overt operation carried out by the US military on Somali soil since the 1993 killing in the capital Mogadishu of 19 US soldiers. It is understood the team came from the same Seal group that led the May 2011 assault on Osama bin Laden in Pakistan which ended in the death of the al-Qaeda leader.

In yesterday’s operation, US forces used helicopters to attack a pirate camp in scrubland near the town of Haradheere, a major pirate base in central Somalia, according to a statement by US Africa Command. The hostages were then ferried back to neighbouring Djibouti, home to the only US military base in Africa.

“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,” said President Barack Obama in a statement released yesterday.

The hostages, American Jessica Buchanan and Dane Poul Hagen Thisted, were kidnapped on October 25th from the town of Galkaiyo, on the edge of pirate territory in north central Somalia while working for a Danish de-mining group. Two truckloads of men captured Buchanan and Thisted as they made their way to the airport.

They later demanded 50 million Danish kroner (€6.7 million) for their release.

Negotiations with pirates can last over a year, prompting the US to act quickly because Ms Buchanan is understood to be suffering from a medical condition.

“One of the hostages has a disease that was very serious and that had to be solved,” said the Danish foreign minister Villy Sovndal in an interview with the country’s TV 2 News. This prompted the urgency in the mission, he said, before ruling out that a precedent had now been set for future interventions.

Somalia is regarded as one of the most dangerous places in the world, with pirates and Islamic militant groups filling a political vacuum that has lasted since 1991, when the military dictator Mohamed Siad Barr was overthrown. The country has had no functioning government since.

Many people have turned to piracy for money, but a beefed-up international naval force on the Indian Ocean has forced pirates to conduct raids on land in recent months.

A British tourist kidnapped from Kenya on September 11th, 2011, is still being held captive in Somalia, as are two Spanish women working for Médecins Sans Frontières. They were taken from a refugee camp in Northern Kenya in October.

Although Kenya invaded southern Somalia in October to take on the Islamist militant group Al- Shabab, the raid by US commandoes represents an escalation in force used by the international community against pirates, as they have not admitted to putting soldiers on the ground in the past.

However, analysts have poured doubt on whether the raid would put the lives of other hostages being held in danger.

“The rescue won’t necessarily have an impact on how hostages are treated because there has already been a trend towards mistreatment in recent years,” said Adjoa Anyimadu of the Chatham House Think Tank in London.

“This is a commercial operation rather than a political one, so the conditions will probably stay the same although they may be held in more difficult places to access in future.”