Jessica Buchanan, an American aid worker who had moved to Somalia after working in Kenya was kidnapped in 2011 along with another colleague.
How Nairobi phonecall forced US President to deploy Seal Team Six [Video]
The phone call from Nairobi to the Oval Office set in motion the deployment of the elite Seal Team Six, the same unit that hunted Osama Bin Laden.
That morning, Jessica knew she was embarking on a dangerous trip to Southern Somalia and left her husband a text saying “If I get kidnapped on this trip, will you come and get me?".
What started as a joke would become the most gruelling 93 days of her life after the security officer who had been assigned to protect Ms Buchanan, sold her out to bandits who kidnapped her in an ambush.
After being taken to a camp overnight, the next morning the attackers used her cellphone to call her husband but his number and other members of her family had been disconnected. It was part of an emergency plan. The only number that worked was the Nairobi office which had a hostage negotiator on standby.
The first demand was $45 million (Sh5 billion) but what followed were months of back and forth communication involving both her employer and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Nairobi office.
In the mean time, Jessica and her colleague were held captive at the bandits camp, sleeping under trees and feeding on tuna fish and a piece of bread only once a day. “Their duty was to keep me from dying because if I died I wouldn't be worth anything,” she said in a past interview with CBS.
She lost 11kgs and her health started to decline and after 3 weeks, the bandits made her appear in a video to prove that she was still alive. Since she was just an aid worker she did not expect any sort of help from the US government until the night members of the dreaded Seal Team Six rescued her in a flash of violence that lasted only minutes.
In a final call to the hostage negotiator in Nairobi, Jessica said she had developed a kidney infection and wouldn’t be alive much longer. “I said I have a kidney infection and started to cry. I said I am afraid I’m going to die out here,” she recalled the conversation.
When that call was received in Nairobi, it set off a chain of events all the way to the Oval Office. The FBI and military consulted doctors who said she only had two weeks to live.
This information was delivered to President Barack Obama who was also told that in just a few days, there would be a new moon in Somalia, providing the perfect darkness for a Seal Team Six rescue.
On the night of January 25, 2012, while everyone else was dead asleep, Jessica heard a faint scratching noise and one of the bandits on sentry duty heard it too.
“I saw the look of sheer terror on his face and all of a sudden there was an eruption of gunfire,” she recalled.
About 24 Navy Seals had landed in parachutes and walked for more than 3km to the camp where they unleashed an assault that left all the nine bandits dead and rescued Jessica and her co-worker.
Jessica did not get to know the names or see the faces of the soldiers who risked their lives because they were all in black masks. They waited until she boarded the rescue chopper and they left back to base camp.
The successful raid was conducted the night before President Obama gave a State of the Union address.
Right before giving the speech, Obama congratulated his Secretary of Defence saying “Good job tonight!”, a secret only both of them knew until the formal announcement about Jessica’s rescue was made.
JOIN OUR PULSE COMMUNITY!
Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or: