Daring rescue saves hostages in Somalia

When President Obama entered the House chamber last night to deliver the State of the Union, he stopped briefly to tell Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, “Leon. Good job tonight. Good job tonight.”

Now we know why.

In a daring nighttime raid Tuesday, U.S. Navy SEALs rescued two hostages, including one American, who were being held by kidnappers in Somalia, U.S. officials tell NBC News.

American Jessica Buchanan, 32, and a 60-year-old Dane, Poul Thisted, were working for a Danish relief organization in northern Somalia when they were kidnapped last October. U.S. officials described their kidnappers as heavily armed common criminals with no known ties to any organized militant group.

According to the U.S. officials, two teams of Navy SEALs landed by helicopter near the compound where the two hostages were being held.

As the SEALS approached the compound on foot gunfire broke out, the U.S. officials said, and several of the militants were reportedly killed. There is no word that any of the Americans were wounded.

Buchanan and Thisted, who had been doing humanitarian work for refugees in the Somalia-Kenya border region, were taken to an undisclosed location, and were reportedly in relatively good condition.

This morning, the White House released this statement from President Obama:

“On Monday, I authorized an operation to rescue Jessica Buchanan, an American citizen who was kidnapped and held against her will for three months in Somalia. Thanks to the extraordinary courage and capabilities of our Special Operations Forces, yesterday Jessica Buchanan was rescued and she is on her way home. As Commander-in-Chief, I could not be prouder of the troops who carried out this mission, and the dedicated professionals who supported their efforts.

“Jessica Buchanan was selflessly serving her fellow human beings when she was taken hostage by criminals and pirates who showed no regard for her health and well-being. Last night I spoke with Jessica Buchanan’s father and told him that all Americans have Jessica in our thoughts and prayers, and give thanks that she will soon be reunited with her family. 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. This is yet another message to the world that the United States of America will stand strongly against any threats to our people.”

I assume this is about the time Eric Cantor will tell us George W. Bush deserves part of the credit, and Fox News will complain that the president’s omission of Republicans in his statement was offensive.

The Associated Press, meanwhile, added that the Navy SEAL team that rescued the American and Danish hostages in Somalia “was the same one that killed Osama bin Laden.”

It’s hard to overstate how extraordinary these servicemen and women really are.