(NEW YORK) — A friend of an aid worker rescued by Navy SEALs in Somalia said that it was important to keep the woman’s three-month captivity quiet so her captors would not ask for more money and put her at further risk.
Jessica Buchanan, 32, and 60-year-old Dutch colleague Poul Hagen Thisted were rescued early Wednesday by SEAL Team 6 — the same group involved in the mission to kill Osama bin Laden last spring — in a daring mission at a remote encampment deep in northern Somalia.
Christina Scolforo, a close friend of Buchanan, says that her abduction was intentionally kept from the media.
“We didn’t want them to get media hype that would cause them to think that she was worth more, and they would want more of a ransom, and then it would prolong the time that she was captive, so a lot of it was hush,” Scolforo said.
Bachanan’s immediate family is now meeting with her at a U.S. military base in Sicily, Italy, members of the woman’s extended family told ABC News.
“She says she feels safe for the first time in 93 days. The men that risked their lives…I just can’t say enough so I really, really appreciate it,” Dave Buchanan, Jessica’s uncle said.
Buchanan and Thisted, who worked with the Danish Refugee Council’s Danish Demining Group, were abducted on Oct. 25, 2011 by a group of Somali bandits and held for ransom.
At approximately 1:40 a.m. Wednesday local time — 5:40 p.m. Tuesday Eastern Time — SEAL Team 6 was aboard a specially equipped C-130 moving rapidly towards where Buchanan and Thisted were being held. One by one, the SEALs hurled themselves out of the plane, parachuting silently to within a few miles of the hideout, then hiking to the enemy encampment in pitch darkness, with armed pirates everywhere.
Within minutes of arriving at the target area, gunfire erupted from the kidnappers, but the SEALs quickly killed all nine of the heavily armed men. By approximately 2:30 a.m. local time, the hostages — now in U.S. hands — were moved on board Black Hawk helicopters and headed for Djibouti.
In a statement Wednesday, Buchanan’s family said they were, “very grateful that Jessica has been rescued. This has been just an unbelievable answer to prayers and we are so grateful for the work of the president, the Navy SEALs and the State Department.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Georgia McCafferty and Junko Ogura, CNN
Steve Almasy, CNN
James Griffiths, CNN
Emanuella Grinberg, CNN