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May 17th, 2013
10:53 PM ET

Abducted by pirates for $45 million ransom

American aid worker Jessica Buchanan was held captive in the Somali desert for 93 days. Her captors were heavily-armed pirates who initially demanded a $45 million ransom. She describes the harrowing ordeal and dramatic rescue to Anderson Cooper in an in-depth interview.

In her last "proof of life" call to her family on January 16, Buchanan told them she had an infection and urgently needed medication to survive. For months she had become weak from exposure to the elements and little food or clean water. That call set in motion the rescue operation that would end her nightmare.

Buchanan says she had no idea anybody knew where she and her Danish colleague were being held. She never imagined President Obama was aware of her imprisonment and location.

In January 2012, U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team Six saved Buchanan in the dark of night. They were so quiet as they approached that she thought the men were beetles. When the silence erupted into gunfire she feared she was being kidnapped by a terrorist group.

Buchanan was shocked when one of her rescuers said her name in an American accent. "Everything is very dark and he says 'We're the American military and we're here to save you. We're here to take you home," she recounts.

Watch the interview to learn more about Buchanan's story and what happened after her heroes found her. Here’s the AC360 411 on the elite SEAL Team Six:

  • 1980: The year SEAL Team Six was created, after the failed U.S. effort to rescue American diplomats held hostage in Iran.
  • 200: Estimated members of SEAL Team Six, who are silently recruited. There’s no application process.
  • 2,500: Total estimated number of SEALs on active duty, only the best are chosen for SEAL Team Six.
  • Only men between the ages of 26 and 33 try out to join the SEALs.
  • 75% don’t make it through the two years of SEAL training.
  • Other SEAL Team Six missions:
-        Four members of the group died during the U.S.-led invasion of Grenada in 1983
-        Captured  deposed dictator Manuel Noriega in Panama in 1989
-        Helped rescue Pres. Jean Bertrand Aristide and his family from Haiti after a coup in 1991
-        The 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden

soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Joe Seattle

    This was an interesting article until it got to the point where it implied Obama had anything to do with the rescue, other than at least not getting in the way.

    May 22, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
  2. Duane

    Jessica's father John and I have been friends for a number of years, and we had many conversations during this entire ordeal as it was occurring. From the conversations I had with him, hats should go off to the FBI as well as they were very involved with this from the beginning and had many meetings with the family as well as a constant stream of information to them. As the rescue was completed, President Obama called John directly on the phone to tell him that Jessica was safe and that was a phone call he never expected. As much as we sometimes complain about our country and politics, its good to know that our at the end of the day we do have people that care for their fellow citizens. Welcome home Jessica!

    May 22, 2013 at 10:33 am |
  3. Onso

    Dan – american humanitarian workers are about the best ambassadors the US can get – they generate a huge amount of goodwill that benefits their country enormously. some of them, like Jessica, choose to work on some of the most dangerous places in the world – and they not do so for the thrills, not even to prop up the image of their country, but to help our sisters and brothers in their dramatic plight. You should be very proud of having a fellow national like Jessica. I am not a US citizen, and I am proud of her!

    May 22, 2013 at 10:05 am |
  4. Daniel

    Sir Anderson Cooper and Ma'am Maureen Miller.....SEAL team six was dissolved in 1987 so which team exactly saved this woman???

    May 22, 2013 at 12:28 am |
  5. Dan

    Just a thought. Why do some Americans go to places that are so dangerous that they stand a good chance of being taken hostage and that puts our nation in a position where we have to risk the lives of our military to rescue the person who made the terrible decision in the first place? Try staying home – or maybe go to Switzerland and quit putting our troops in harms way!

    May 21, 2013 at 1:29 pm |