Washington -- Freed hostages Jessica Buchanan and Poul Thisted arrived at a U.S. base in Sicily Thursday, a day after being rescued in a U.S. military raid in Somalia, a spokesman for the base said.
The pair are now at Naval Air Station Sigonella, said base public affairs officer Lt. Tim Page.
Buchanan's father John said earlier he hopes to be reunited with her Thursday, without saying where.
U.S. special operations forces parachuted into Somalia from fixed-wing planes in the early hours of Wednesday morning, then advanced on foot to a compound where the two kidnapped international aid workers were being held and freed them, U.S. officials said.
The nine gunmen holding the hostages were killed, the officials said.
Kidnappers seized Jessica Buchanan, 32, and Thisted, 60, on October 25 in Galkayo, central Somalia, after they visited humanitarian projects there, said the Danish Refugee Council, the agency for which they worked.
Neither was harmed, the aid group said.
President Barack Obama phoned John Buchanan to tell him Jessica had been rescued, Buchanan said, adding that the call had left him "flabbergasted."
"He said, 'John, this is Barack Obama. I'm calling because I have great news for you. Your daughter has been rescued by our military,'" Buchanan said.
"Then he referred to his daughters, obviously had a human element there. Then he said something to the effect of, 'People just can't do this to our citizens, especially young people who are trying to help others.'"
Buchanan said the operation left him with an overwhelming sense of patriotism.
"I'm extremely proud and glad to be an American," he said. "I didn't know this was going to transpire. I'm glad it did."
He said Jessica was "doing well, under the circumstances."
Somalia's transitional government welcomed the U.S. military operation Thursday.
The rescue of the aid workers "is a great joy to the Somali government and to all Somalis as well as to all right thinking people everywhere," the government said in a statement.
"Hitting them hard is the only language kidnappers of innocent people, pirates and terrorists understand, and every opportunity should be taken to wipe out this scourge from our country," the government said.
The new United Nations envoy to Somalia -- the first permanent U.N. representative there in 17 years -- also expressed understanding for the military operation.
"If negotiations fail, all means must be applied, including rescue operations," Augustine Mahiga said Thursday, even as he urged that lives be protected "on both sides."
Thisted's sister and brother-in-law wept for joy when they heard he had been rescued, his brother-in-law Svend Rask told Denmark's TV2.
"She was overjoyed when she told us what happened," Rask said, speaking of the daughter who gave them the news.
The rescued aid workers were taken to a regional medical facility first, Pentagon spokesman George Little said Wednesday.
The pair phoned their families from the African nation of Djibouti after the rescue, said Ann Mary Olsen of the Danish Refugee Council, according to Danish TV2 reporter Thorkild Dahl.
The Navy SEAL unit that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden last year in Pakistan participated in the mission, a U.S. official said, without specifying whether any of the same individuals were on both assaults.
The SEALs are part of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, formerly known as SEAL Team Six.
Little said the rescue team included special operations troops from different branches of the military, but would not specify the branches.
The special operations forces took fire as they fought their way into the compound where the hostages were held, the official said, adding the troops believed the kidnappers were shooting. The official is not authorized to speak to the media and asked not to be named.
Nine gunmen were killed in the strike, Little said, adding that they had explosives nearby. There were no known survivors among the kidnappers, he added.
The American assault team did not suffer any casualties, the Pentagon said.
The United States was in close contact with Denmark before, during and after the raid, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama learned of the success of the mission at 6:43 p.m. Tuesday, more than two hours before he delivered the State of the Union address.
"The decision to go ahead with this rescue mission was made because there was information concerning the deteriorating health of Ms. Buchanan, as well as a window of opportunity to execute this mission," Carney said.
Obama, who had given the go-ahead at 9 p.m. Monday, was updated on its progress throughout Tuesday, Carney said.
At the State of the Union, before news broke of the rescue, Obama told Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, "Leon, good job tonight. Good job tonight."
The hostages were safe at that point, but the mission was not yet complete as the American assault team had not departed Somalia, Little said.
In a statement, Obama thanked the special operations forces for their "extraordinary courage and capabilities."
"The United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people, and will spare no effort to secure the safety of our citizens and to bring their captors to justice," Obama said. "This is yet another message to the world that the United States of America will stand strongly against any threats to our people."
Capt. John Kirby, another Pentagon spokesman, said the abductors were ordinary criminals.
"They were kidnappers. We don't have any indication that they were connected to any terrorist group or ideological group at that point," he said.
"They were not Al-Shabaab," Little said, referring to the al Qaeda-linked Islamist militia that holds sway over parts of Somalia.
He said the sense of urgency with regard to the hostage situation had increased from mid-January.
"It's safe to say that within the last week or so, we were able to connect enough dots that we could make the decisions that were made," Kirby said, referring to the intelligence U.S. officials had to go on.
The area where the hostages were seized is known as a hub for pirates, rather than an area of Islamic militant activity.
A number of high-profile abductions of foreigners have occurred in Somalia and in Kenya, close to the largely lawless Somali border.
Some of the kidnappings have been blamed on Al-Shabaab, while criminals seeking ransoms seem to have carried out others.
It was not clear how the raid might affect the fate of Michael Scott Moore, a U.S. journalist who was kidnapped Saturday near Galkayo -- the same town in central Somalia where the two aid workers were taken last October.
In an exclusive interview with CNN, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga congratulated the United States on the rescue and said he supported further U.S. and NATO action on the ground in Somalia.
"We would really like to see more concerted international effort in dealing with issues of international terrorism," he said.
"This action will send a very clear signal to the Al-Shabaab that it doesn't matter how long they hold (their) hostages, the international community will continue to keep them on the radar."
Kenya sent troops over the border into Somalia in October to take on Al-Shabaab in response to abductions of aid workers and tourists.
The U.S. raid comes nearly three years after Navy snipers killed three pirates who had taken hostage the captain of the Maersk Alabama off Somalia.
The aid workers were part of the Danish Refugee Council's de-mining unit, which aims to make civilians safe from landmines and unexploded ordnance.
"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," Olsen said. "Their efforts have not been wasted."
Buchanan has been employed as a regional education adviser with the mine clearance unit of DRC since May; Thisted, a community safety manager with the de-mining unit, has been working in Somaliland and Somalia since June 2009.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times