Obama praises SEALs after rescue of US aid worker in Somalia

U.S. special forces staged a daring raid in Somalia on Wednesday morning, rescuing two foreign-aid workers, including an American.

The aid workers, American Jessica Buchanan and Dane Poul Thisted, were being held by Somali pirates, reports said.

President Obama praised the successful rescue in a statement released by the White House.

"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," Obama said.

"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."

CBS News reported that the assault was carried out by members of the same SEAL team responsible for killing Osama bin Laden. The SEAL team parachuted into the heavily guarded compound, secured the hostages and left in helicopters. Many Somali militants were killed in the assault, but there were no reports indicating whether any of the American troops were wounded.

Buchanan and Thisted had been working for the Danish Refugee Council, which provides relief aid to refugees along the Somali-Kenyan border, said reports. They had been held in captivity since Oct. 25. 

When the president entered the House on Tuesday night to deliver his State of the Union address, he was seen pointing to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and overheard saying, "Good job tonight,” NBC News first reported. It was unclear at that time what the president was referring to. His speech praised American forces for the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden last summer but made no mention of the operation in Somalia.

"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," Obama said in his statement.  

"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," he continued. "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."

Panetta said in a statement that the mission "demonstrates our military's commitment to the safety of our fellow citizens, wherever they may be around the world." 

"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. "I applaud their efforts, and I am pleased that Ms. Buchanan and Mr. Thisted were not harmed during the operation."

Vice President Biden said on ABC News that the operation was undertaken because the American aid worker's health was failing. "They concluded they should go at this time and the president gave a 'go,' " Biden said.

The vice president told CBS News that the operation was “in the works for some time.” 

“This was incredibly daring — these guys are absolutely mind-blowingly effective at what they do," he said. 

Biden also delivered a message to “all these pirates and those terrorists”: “We’ll find you and we will take care of America’s interests,” the vice president said.

— Jeremy Herb contributed.

This story was updated at 8:20 a.m.