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Last updated on Friday, January 27, 2012
(UNDATED) - An American woman rescued by U.S. Navy SEALs after being held hostage by pirates since October 25 is the niece of Dave Buchanan, owner of Buchanan Mechanical in Washington. (TRIBUNE)
32-year-old Jessica Buchanan, is the daughter of Dave's brother, John, who lived in Washington about 21 years ago.
Jessica and a Danish co-worker were turned over to kidnappers by their security guards while on their way to a project site. The two aid workers are employed by the Danish refugee council's demining unit, which clears mines and unexploded ordnance in conflict zones. Jessica serves as a regional education adviser for the company.
Jessica studied early childhood education at Valley Forge Christian College, a small suburban Philadelphia school, and did her student teaching at Rosslyn Academy in Africa, where she fell in love with the country.
After going back there to work following graduation, she met her husband, Erik Landemalm. The Swede works for the Association of European Parliamentarians With Africa. Dave said Erik helped authorities in Somaliland set up a parliament.
There are three parts of Somalia, and they live in the safest, Dave said. They have an apartment in Nairobi (Kenya) and a house in Hargeisa (the capital of Somaliland).
Pirates kidnapped the two and demanded $10 million for the pair. But Dave says no one seems to know for sure how much they were asking, except the negotiators. Dave was told the pirates had no education, or concept of money and poor communications skills, which stalled negotiations.
The FBI flew the family to Nairobi to see how negotiations were progressing. they spent about three weeks their returning just before Christmas.
According to intelligence reports, Jessica's health was deteriorating, but Dave says that was exaggerated. Dave says he talked to his brother john briefly and Jessica feels safe for the first time since she was abducted.
Jessica was rescued by seal team 6, the team landed in Somalia at midnight and carried out the raid between 2 and 3 a.m. By the time President Obama took the stage for his state of the union address, the raid had been completed. Associated Press stories report nine kidnappers were killed and three were arrested.
Jessica was taken to a base in Italy. Dave says president Obama called his brother after the speech to tell him Jessica was safe.
The family will meet her in Italy. Dave says the FBI and government officials have been in constant contact with Jessica's family and he can't thank them enough.
Dave said he has no idea if the abduction will change Jessica's mind about doing aid work in a developing country, but her family would prefer she wouldn't go back to Africa.
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