Danish Demining Group

Kidnapped aid workers rescued in Somalia

25.01.12

Today, Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted have been rescued during an American-led operation in Somalia. The two aid workers from the Danish Refugee Council’s demining unit, DDG, are both unharmed and at a safe location.

After being held hostage for three months, American citizen Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted from Denmark have successfully been rescued from their kidnappers in Somalia.

“I am happy and relieved to know that the nightmare of Poul and Jessica is now over. They are both unharmed, on their way to a secure location, where they will receive proper care and be reunited with their families,” says Ann Mary Olsen, head of the International Department of DRC.

“I have been in contact with the families, who are off course very relieved and happy. They have asked us to thank the media for being discrete and for their respect for the need of privacy of the families. They are hopeful that this consideration will last as they further encourage journalists to respect to their situation and their need for privacy. The families direct the media to us,” says Ann Mary Olsen.

The two humanitarian aid workers from Danish Deming Group, DDG, the mine action unit of the Danish Refugee Council, DRC, were abducted on October 25 2011 in Galkayo, Central Somalia.

“The Danish Refugee Council was informed of the possibility of a rescue operation taking place, but knew of no specific details on how and when. What we know for sure, and what is most important for us is that Poul and Jessica are now free. We thank those who have ended this extreme ordeal and criminal act that Jessica and Poul were victims of,” says Ann Mary Olsen.

Since 25 October 2011, when the kidnapping of 32 year-old Jessica Buchanan and 60 year-old Poul Hagen Thisted took place, the Danish Refugee Council has received unique support from influential clan leaders, elders, and politicians in Somalia, while Somali civil society have shown strong support by taking to the streets to demonstrate and demand the release of Poul and Jessica.

“The Somali society has all along condemned the kidnapping and over time increased their pressure on the criminals involved with the kidnapping. The Somali society has continued their strong support to this day. We have been congratulated from all corners of the Somali society, and we have been told of celebrations in the the capital Mogadishu, in Galkayo and in the streets of Adado, where the local community has worked very hard to help Poul and Jessica. We are grateful for their strong support. Their efforts have not been wasted,” says Ann Mary Olsen.

32 year-old Jessica Buchanan has been employed as a regional education adviser with the mine clearance unit of DRC since May 2010. 60 year-old Poul Hagen Thisted, a community safety manager with DDG, has been working with both DRC and DDG in Somaliland and Somalia since June 2009.

DRC has worked in Somalia since 1998, and is widely recognized and acknowledged in the region. Today, the organisation provides relief and assistance to an estimated 450,000 people in the Horn of Africa and Yemen - a region known to be difficult accessible for most aid organisations not least as a consequence of decades of armed conflict and complex power structures.

DRC encourages all parties and media to respect the need for privacy of Poul, Jessica and their families. All media inquiries should be directed to DRC in Copenhagen.

Read in Somali (PDF 105KB)

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