Nightly News   |  January 25, 2012

How SEAL Team 6 rescued hostages from Somalia

The Navy SEALs caught the kidnappers by surprise, parachuting to the ground two miles away from their target. They killed all nine of the kidnappers, and rescued Jessica Buchanan and Poul Thisted who had been held since October 2011. NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good evening. it was just as we were coming on the air last night for our coverage of the state of the union address , the president had just been introduced. he was walking down the aisle into the chamber. when he reached the area where his cabinet members sit, we heard the president clearly say something above the applause to his secretary of defense leon panet panetta, and we wondered why.

>> good job tonight. good job tonight.

>> good job tonight. what was that about? well, hours later we learn what that was about. the united states had again called on the very best, the u.s. navy seals to drop onto a foreign country and pull off a very risky, very dangerous job. in this case, extracting two hostages including one american. it's where we begin tonight with our pentagon correspondent jim miklazewski, who by the way, was at home watching coverage of this speech. heard the same thing, got on the phone to his sources and was able to break the story overnight. jim , good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. this was the same elite navy unit seal team 6 that took out osama bin laden last may. in many respects, this mission was riskier. the seals here face nine heavily-armed kidnappers, a stash of high explosives and two hostages held at gun point. in the end, it all went off without a hitch. the two hostages seen in this video, american jessica buchanan and her danish colleague were held by kidnappers in north central somalia since last october. 1:00 a.m . in the dead of night , nearly 20 navy seals from the elite seal team 6 approached the area by plane to take the kidnappers by surprise, they parachuted to the ground about two miles from their target. in full combat gear, they ran toward the encampment. there they encountered the hefry-armed somalis. in a brief exchange of gun fire, the seals killed all nine of the kidnappers. the two hostages were rescued unharmed. they were loaded on to combat helicopters and flown to a u.s. military base in djbouti. president obama called jessica's father to tell him his daughter was free. they were working for a danish relief organization when they were kidnapped three months ago. the fbi was in constant contact with the kidnappers in. a white house briefing this week, president obama was told buchanan's health had taken a turn for the worse. on monday night, the president ordered the u.s. military to launch the rescue operation . this morning on "today," vice president joe biden said they simply had run out of options.

>> the president authorized yesterday because special operations forces said this was the time. jessica's health was givening to decline. she is a young woman in her 30s. we wanted to act and they did.

>> reporter: at the danish refugee council where the two hostages work, incredible relief.

>> very happy to hear that this hardship situation has been been for more than three months is now over.

>> reporter: there are reports tonight that the kidnappers recently rejected a ransom offer of more than $1 million for the release of the two hostages. officials here insist these kidnappers were not pirates or terrorists, but common criminals and thugs. just as dangerous, nevertheless.

>> jim miklazewski starting us off from the pentagon tonight. jim , thanks.