An American photojournalist and a South African teacher held by al-Qaida militants in Yemen have been killed in a failed US rescue attempt...
An American photojournalist and a South African teacher held by al-Qaida militants in Yemen have been killed in a failed US rescue attempt, authorities said today.
US President Barack Obama said in a statement he ordered the raid that saw Luke Somers and Pierre Korkie killed after al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula posted a video online Thursday threatening to kill Somers.
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Information “indicated that Luke’s life was in imminent danger,” Obama said. “Based on this assessment, and as soon as there was reliable intelligence and an operational plan, I authorized a rescue attempt. … I also authorized the rescue of any other hostages held in the same location as Luke.”
The aid group Gift of Givers later identified the second hostage as South African teacher Pierre Korkie, who the group said was to be released tomorrow. They said he was to be flown out of Yemen “under diplomatic cover, then to meet with family members in a ‘safe’ country (and) fly to South Africa.”
Lucy Somers, the photojournalist’s sister, told The Associated Press that she and her father learned of her 33-year-old brother’s death from FBI agents at 1030 IST today.
“We ask that all of Luke’s family members be allowed to mourn in peace,” Lucy Somers said from London. Yemen’s national security chief, Maj Gen Ali al-Ahmadi, said the militants planned to kill Luke Somers today.
“Al-Qaida promised to conduct the execution (of Somers) today so there was an attempt to save them but unfortunately they shot the hostage before or during the attack,” al-Ahmadi said at a conference in Manama, Bahrain. “He was freed but unfortunately he was dead.”
Yemen’s local al-Qaida branch, Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, posted a video Thursday that showed Somers, threatening to kill him in three days if the United States didn’t meet the group’s demands, which weren’t specified. He was kidnapped in September 2013 from Sanaa.
The news of the failed rescue comes after a suspected US drone strike in Yemen killed nine alleged al-Qaida militants early today, a Yemeni security official said before news of Somers’ death. The drone struck at dawn in Yemen’s southern Shabwa province, hitting a suspected militant hideout, the official said. The official did not elaborate and spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn’t authorized to brief journalists.
Later today, tribal leaders said they saw helicopters flying over an area called Wadi Abdan in Shabwa province.