An American photojournalist and a South African teacher who were being held by al-Qaida’s Yemen affiliate were killed during a rescue effort launched by U.S. commandos. President Barack Obama said he ordered the raid because the life of the journalist, Luke Somers, was in “imminent danger.” And the rescue effort should be seen as an example of how the United States would “spare no effort to use all of its military, intelligence and diplomatic capabilities to bring Americans home safely, wherever they are located,” Obama added. Shortly before Obama issued his statement, Yemen’s national security chief said the terrorists had planned to kill Somers on Saturday, reports the Associated Press.
“Both Mr. Somers and a second non-U.S. citizen hostage were murdered by the AQAP (al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula) terrorists during the course of the operation,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said.
By the time U.S. servicemembers reached 33-year-old Somers he was apparently badly wounded already. He died from his injuries when he was being flown to a U.S. naval ship in the region, reports the New York Times. Pierre Korkie was the other hostage killed in the operation, according to relief group Gift of the Givers, which posted a statement on its website.
The operation marked the second time U.S. special operations forces launched a raid to try to free Somers, who was abducted in Yemen’s capital in September 2013. But he was moved before U.S. forces arrived, notes the Washington Post. Earlier this week, the militants released a statement warning “Obama and the American government of the consequences of proceeding ahead in any other foolish action.” The family released a video after the statement, breaking the silence on Somers’ abduction and calling for his release. “He is a good person and he has only been trying to do good things for the Yemeni population,” Somers’ brother says in the video.
There was no new information on three other hostages—a Briton, a Turk and a Yemeni—who were known to have been held with Somers and Korkie, a Yemeni security official tells Reuters.