American commandos flew into Somalia Tuesday and rescued two hostages who had been kidnapped by pirates based there, a mission ordered by President Barack Obama before he addressed the nation, the Pentagon said.
Obama appeared to congratulate Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for something Tuesday evening as he entered the House chamber to deliver his third State of the Union address.
Hours later, the Pentagon said in a statement that American Jessica Buchanan and her Danish colleague Poul Thisted had been rescued by U.S. special operations forces. Both are employed by the Danish Demining Group and had been nabbed by Somali pirates on Oct. 25, 2011.
The duo have been "transported to a safe location where we will evaluate their health and make arrangements for them to return home," the Pentagon said.
One report from the region said the U.S. commandos killed nine pirates. The Defense Department statement did not reference any killings, but it did say the American troops entered a "hostile environment".
"This successful hostage rescue, undertaken in a hostile environment, is a testament to the superb skills of courageous service members who risked their lives to save others," Panetta said in the statement. "I applaud their efforts, and I am pleased that Ms. Buchanan and Mr. Thisted were not harmed during the operation. This mission demonstrates our military's commitment to the safety of our fellow citizens wherever they may be around the world."
No American forces were killed or injured during the raid, according to the Pentagon. The U.S. military has been for several years stepping up its actions against the pirates.
The department provided few details of the mission, but did call it a "team effort" that "required close coordination, especially between the Department of Defense and our colleagues in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).