Obama to Panetta at SOTU: ‘Great job’ on Somalia rescue

Laura Rozen
The Envoy

While walking onto the House floor to deliver the State of the Union Tuesday night, President Obama told Defense Secretary Leon Panetta "great job tonight." The mysterious comment was caught on camera and by the mic pool.

On Wednesday, the Pentagon and White House explained what the presidential congratulations were all about.

"Last night U.S. Special Operations Forces conducted, by order of the President of the United States, a successful mission in Somalia to rescue two individuals taken hostage on October 25, 2011," Panetta said in a statement Wednesday.

Jessica Buchanan, 32, an American aid worker, and her Danish colleague, Poul Thisted, were both rescued. The two employees of a Danish aid group were kidnapped at gunpoint by a suspected Somali criminal gang in the northern part of the country in October.

Both of the freed hostages are safe, and arrangements are being made for their return home, Panetta said. Nine suspected members of the group holding them were killed in the operation. No U.S. commandos were injured in the operation.

Vice President Joe Biden confirmed the rescue operation in an interview with ABC News' "Good Morning America" Wednesday.

The operation took place at about 6pm EST Tuesday night, and was completed within about an hour, Defense Department officials said.

The U.S. commandos "parachuted into Somalia, walked to [the] encampment, freed hostages and choppered out - all at night," Bloomberg News' Tony Capaccio reported on Twitter, citing Pentagon briefers.

President Obama himself called Buchanan's father in Virginia Tuesday night to give him the good news, before heading to Congress to address the nation.

--With Dylan Stableford

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