Pentagon officials said the timing of the raid was moved up because of new information, collected in mid-January, suggesting that Buchanan's health had deteriorated so much that her life was in danger because of a pre-existing medical condition. They said the nine kidnappers had been heavily armed and that there were explosives at the scene, but declined to say whether there had been any exchange of gunfire between the U.S. commandos and the pirates. No FBI personnel accompanied the raiding party, the spokesmen said.
The spokesmen, George Little and Capt. John Kirby, said the pirates weren't members of al-Shabaab, an al-Qaida affiliated group operating in Somalia, and instead appeared to be mere kidnappers or criminals. They said the encampment was in the vicinity of the Somali town of Cadaado, in the northwest part of the country.
They also said President Obama's on-camera congratulations to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta before the State of the Union came after he got word that the hostages were in safe hands, but said parts of the operation - including bringing out the commandos and searching the scene - were ongoing at the time. Panetta had been monitoring the assault from the White House in the run-up to the address, they said.
They declined to confirm whether SEAL Team 6, the elite unit which killed Osama bin Laden, had been involved in the raid. But they stressed that the Special Operations rescue time had involved elite forces from multiple services, likely a reference to the U.S. Army's Delta Force or to the Air Force's specialized equipment and personnel. The raid was carried out under the authority of Gen. Carter Hamm, the head of the military's African Command.
Little said the initial plans "had very concrete plans for removing the kidnappers and placing them in detention."
That option, Kirby said, "didn't present itself." All nine kidnappers were killed.