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Thursday, January 26, 2012

US Special Forces Raid Could Bring Retaliation Against Somali Aid Workers

TONY EASTLEY: There are fears that a daring raid into Somalia by US special forces may increase the risks to other hostages being held by Somali pirates.

In a pre-dawn raid the same commando group which was involved in the killing last year of Osama Bin Laden rescued two foreign aid workers who'd been held captive for three months.

Barbara Miller reports.

BARBARA MILLER: The mission to rescue an American woman and Danish man took place in the dead of night.

US special forces parachuted down to an area in central Somalia close to where the two aid workers were being held.

The team was on the ground for about an hour. A gunfight broke out and US authorities say nine of the kidnappers were killed.

The rescue squad, members of the elite Seal Team Six, and the two aid workers were then taken by helicopter to a US base in neighbouring Djibouti.

US vice president Joe Biden says President Obama personally authorised the mission to rescue 32 year old Jessica Buchanan and 60 year old Poul Hagan Thisted.

JOE BIDEN: We have our special operations forces - I'm not going to go into more detail than that - who are by the way the most incredible warriors this world has ever seen. They said it was the time, the opportunity. Jessica's health was, they worried was failing and they concluded they should go at this time. The president gave the go.

BARBARA MILLER: The two aid workers were working for a land clearance unit of the Danish Refugee Council when they were abducted last October.

Andreas Kamm the council's secretary general says he had no knowledge of the US rescue mission.

ANDREAS KAMM: We haven't asked for anything. We thought that our mediation would come out with a positive result of course. But now we are simply just happy that the situation has ended in a positive way.

BARBARA MILLER: The mission is the highest profile US intervention in Somalia for many years and appears to have been a spectacular success. But there are fears that the deaths of the nine kidnappers could be revenged.

Roland Marchal an expert on Somalia at the French National Centre for Scientific Research says aid workers still in Somalia could be targeted.

ROLAND MARCHAL: It is a risk. Families, relatives of those who have been killed will retaliate. They will claim that they were in a negotiation and no-one was at death's risk. But the Americans made this action and killed people so that's very unjust, unfair on their own terms and therefore they have to take revenge.

BARBARA MILLER: Hostage negotiations in Somalia are typically lengthy and complex. An Australian man Nigel Brennan was held there for 15 months before his release in 2009.

Rescue attempts have also failed spectacularly in the past. A year ago four Americans being held on a hijacked yacht off Somalia were killed by their captors as US forces tried to rescue them.

Little wonder then that president Obama was keen to celebrate this successful mission. In a statement the president said the mission sent "another message to the world that the United States of America will stand strongly against any threats to our people".

TONY EASTLEY: Barbara Miller.

The Rest @ ABC

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