Hostages rescued by US special forces brought to Italy

Hostages rescued by US special forces brought to Italy

WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
Hostages rescued by US special forces brought to Italy

A undated photograph released on January 14, 2002 by the US Deparment of Defense shows U.S. Navy SEAL (Sea, Air, Land) during an operation in Afghanistan. AFP photo

Two Western aid workers rescued in Somalia in a daring US commando raid have been taken to Italy as they begin their recovery from three months in captivity, the Pentagon said Thursday.

US forces flew American Jessica Buchanan and Danish national Poul Thisted to Naval Air Station Sigonella, a major NATO base in Sicily, and are undergoing "reintegration" activities, a Pentagon official said.

"Ms. Buchanan is being reunited with her father and husband there," the official said on condition of anonymity.

Nine kidnappers died in a firefight during the raid by elite Navy SEALS in an operation ordered by President Barack Obama after intelligence that the health of Buchanan, 32, was in danger, according to officials.

Officials said Obama ordered the raid secretly just as he prepared for his annual State of the Union address on Tuesday. Obama was overheard saying, "Good job tonight," to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta but he did not mention the raid the speech to a joint session of Congress.

On Thursday, Obama sent a letter to congressional leaders explaining that the kidnappers were "linked to Somali pirates and financiers." "I directed this action consistent with my responsibility to protect US citizens both at home and abroad, and in furtherance of US national security interests, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct US foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive," Obama wrote.

Buchanan and Thisted, 60, were employed by the Danish Refugee Council Demining Group helping to de-mine war-torn Somalia, which has lacked a functioning central government for two decades.