American soldiers on Tuesday night freed two aid workers -- American citizen Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted of Denmark -- who had been held hostage by Somali pirates since October, the White House announced in a Wednesday morning statement.
The commandos who conducted the raid flew in by helicopter and killed nine pirates during the mission, The New York Times reported. The Navy SEAL team responsible for the raid was the same that killed Osama bin Laden in May, CNN and the Associated Press reported.
President Obama authorized the operation on Monday, according to the statement, and by the time of his State of the Union address on Tuesday night it seemed he knew of its success. As the president made his way to the podium to deliver his address, he leaned over to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and said, "Leon. Good job tonight. Good job tonight."
Obama's decision to authorize the operation was influenced in part by Buchanan's failing health, Vice President Joe Biden said on ABC on Wednesday morning. "They concluded they should go at this time. The president gave the go," he said, adding that the Pentagon would give further operational details in a debriefing on Wednesday morning. Speaking on NBC, Biden said he didn't talk to the president about his comments at the State of the Union, but that he didn't think they were meant to intentionally tip off the press.
In the statement, Obama congratulated the troops who carried out the operation, saying, "Thanks to the extraordinary courage and capabilities of our Special Operations Forces, yesterday Jessica Buchanan was rescued, and she is on her way home." Buchanan, he said "was selflessly serving her fellow human beings when she was taken hostage by criminals and pirates who showed no regard for her health and well-being."
Sara Sorcher contributed to this report.