Jessica Buchanan Somalia: What Happened To Somalia Pirate Hostage?

By iScienceTimes Staff on May 14, 2013 12:42 PM EDT

Jessica Buchanan
Jessica Buchanan, a Somalian hostage, recounted her 93-day captivity and daring rescue by Navy SEAL Team Six. (Photo: Reuters/Danish De-Mining Group)

Jessica Buchanan, an American aid worker held hostage in Somalia for 93 days beginning in 2011, has spoken for the first time about her terrifying ordeal and dramatic rescue by a Navy SEAL team.

In 2011, Buchanan, 32, was working in northern Somalia, where she was helping raise awareness about how to avoid land mines. That October, she traveled from the relatively safe north to the much more dangerous south. The night before leaving, Buchanan sent her husband, Erik Landemalm, also an aid worker there, a prescient text message: "If I get kidnapped on this trip, will you come and get me?"

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On the trip back from the south to the north, Buchanan and another aid worker, a 60-year-old Dane named Poul Hagen, were surrounded by a band of AK-47 wielding, speed-crazed Somali land pirates; Buchanan and Hagan had been betrayed by the very man hired to protect them.

Buchanan told 60 Minutes, "I figured they were going to rape me and then kill me. And I just keep thinking, 'This can't be the end of my life. I am only 32 years old. I haven't had any children yet.'"  

"I see a small child in the back of the Land Cruiser with an AK-47, draped in ammunition, and I think the irony of why I came to Africa in the first place, and here I have a child involved in my kidnapping, it's just unbelievable."

The captors demanded a $45 million ransom. What followed was a horrifying period of just over three months in captivity at the hands of the Somalian land pirates. While they didn't rape or beat her, a thyroid condition from which Buchanan suffers turned into a kidney infection; the Somalians provided no medical care. Buchanan and Hagen slept outside, sometimes in the rain, and were fed "maybe once a day. We would get a small can of tuna fish and a piece of bread."

Buchanan said the Somalians "treated us like animals. To be so sick that, you know, you're vomiting behind bushes. And you can't walk straight, and you're laying in the fetal position on the ground under a tree. And they don't even, they don't care."

"Their duty was to keep me from dying because then I wasn't worth anything," she added.

With her health deteriorating, the United States government decided to make a move, and in January 2012, Navy SEAL Team Six -- the same military unit that killed Osama Bin Laden -- parachuted into Somalia and stormed the compound. The nine Somalian captors were all killed by the team, but Buchanan, Hagen and the SEALs were unharmed.

"I hear my name," Buchanan told 60 Minutes, recounting the events of that night. "But it's not a Somali accent, it's an American accent. And I can't compute. Like I can't understand that somebody with an American accent knows my name."

When one of the SEALS handed Buchanan an American flag, "I just started to cry," she said. "At that point in time I have never in my life been so proud and so very happy to be an American."

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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