DDG Aid Workers Rescued

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Jessica Buchanon
Jessica Buchanan

Danish Demining Group aid workers Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted were captured by Somali pirates on 25 October 2011 while traveling through Gaalkacyo, the capital of the north-central Mudug region in Central Somalia.1 Three months after they were taken hostage, U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6 carried out a rescue mission, leading both Buchanan and Thisted to safety.2

Buchanan and Thisted were working for DDG in northern Somalia, educating Somali children about the dangers of weapons. DDG has been working for several years in Africa and the Middle East in an effort to clear landmines and unexploded ordnance and provide explosive-remnants-of-war risk education and humanitarian relief to those in conflict zones.2 DDG, along with other mine-action organizations, also works directly with the Puntland Mine Action Centre to “prioritize EOD, MRE, and survey tasks” in Somalia.3

While Somalia is known to be heavily contaminated with landmines, the location of those landmines remains relatively unknown. Conflict in the country has prevented any extensive surveying and removal in the area. By the end of 2010, there were at least 2,639 known casualties from mines/ERW in Somalia.4 The prevalence of landmines in the area and the lack of knowledge of their specific location makes the mine-action efforts that much more pertinent for the safety of the people of Somalia.

Buchanan had worked for DDG since May 2010. Prior to joining DDG, she lived in Kenya and in 2007, began working at the Rosslyn Academy in Nairobi. She taught first, fourth and sixth graders at the Academy before moving to Somalia with her husband, Erik Landemalm, an Association of European Parliamentarians for Africa aid worker, in 2009.5

Somalia, July 2011.
Paul Hagen Thisted

Thisted was a passionate DDG aid worker. According to his Linkedin profile, he was stationed in Hargeisa, Somalia, since July 2009 as a manager for the Somali Religious and Traditional Leaders Peace Initiative, a program organized by the Danish Refugee Council, Finn Church Aid, and the International Horn University.6 DDG has been providing aid to Somalia for 14 years, which includes providing more than 100,000 internally displaced people in the Mogadishu area with daily meals, shelter and aid packages.1

During the rescue mission, Navy SEALs parachuted into the area after dark and traveled on foot to the captives’ location. The SEALs then reportedly killed all nine captors before taking Buchanan and Thisted in a Black Hawk helicopter to Djibouti. J

~ Katy Lovin, CISR staff







Contact Information

Center for International Stabilization and Recovery
James Madison University
Harrisonburg, VA 22807 / USA
Email: cisr@jmu.edu






  1. “Influential Somalis Join Forces to Resolve DDG Kidnapping.” Danish Demining Group. 11 January 2012. http://www.danishdemininggroup.dk/news/news/artikel/influential-somalis-join-forces-to-resolve-ddg-kidnapping/. Accessed 25 January 2012.
  2.  “US Navy SEALs who Killed Bin Laden Rescue Two Hostages from Somalia.” The Guardians. 25 January 2012. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jan/25/us-navy-seals-freed-somalia-hostages. Accessed 25 January 2012.
  3. “Somalia.” Electronic Mine Information Network. http://www.mineaction.org/country.asp?c=23 Accessed 13 March 2012.
  4. “Somalia.” Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor. http://www.the-monitor.org/index.php/publications/display?url=lm/2004/somalia.html#fn8546.Accessed 13 March 2012.
  5. Newcomb, Alyssa and Hughes, Dana. “Buchanan Sold Her Belongings to Become Missionary.” ABC World News25 January 2012. http://abcnews.go.com/International/jessica-buchanan-missionary-loves-africa/story?id=15439390#.T38RVNmN6uI. Accessed 26 January 2012.
  6. “Paul Hagen Thisted.” Linkedin. http://www.linkedin.com/pub/poul-hagen-thisted/6/24a/192. Accessed 3 March 2012.