6 Dec 2014

British-born hostage killed in failed rescue attempt

Luke Somers, a British-born photojournalist held hostage by al-Qaeda in Yemen, is killed in a failed rescue attempt.

His sister Lucy Somers told Associated Press that she had been informed of her 33-year-old brother’s death by FBI agents today.

“We ask that all of Luke’s family members be allowed to mourn in peace,” Lucy Somers said.

Mr Somers reportedly died after being flown to a US naval ship with gunshot wounds.

Another hostage, Pierre Korkie, a teacher from South Africa, was also killed in the rescue attempt. Mr Korkie was taken hostage in Taiz, Yemen in May 2013.

Pierre Korkie

Picture: South African teacher Pierre Korkie

A statement posted online by the aid charity Gift of the Givers said: “We received with sadness the news that Pierre was killed in an attempt by American Special Forces, in the early hours of this morning, to free hostages in Yemen.”

Mr Somers, an American citizen, was captured in the Yemeni capital Sana’a in September 2013 by al-Qaeda.

Earlier this week al-Qaeda released a video with a message aimed at the US government threatening to kill the hostage if its demands were not met.

Last week the US said it had attempted a rescue operation to free a number of hostages, including Mr Somers, but that he had not been at the site of the raid.

‘Barbaric murder’

US President Barack Obama condemned the “barbaric murder” of Luke Somers by al-Qaeda.

“On behalf of the American people, I offer my deepest condolences to Luke’s family and to his loved ones,” Obama said in a statement.

“As this and previous hostage rescue operations demonstrate, the United States will spare no effort to use all of its military, intelligence and diplomatic capabilities to bring Americans home safely, wherever they are located. And terrorists who seek to harm our citizens will feel the long arm of American justice.”

Obama said he authorized the raid on Friday to rescue Somers and other hostages held in the same location. He said the United States had used every tool at its disposal to secure Somers’ release since his capture 15 months ago.

The family of Mr Somers had earlier pleaded for him to be released. In an online video Miss Somers described her older brother as a romantic who “always believes the best in people.” She added: “Please let him live.”

His father Michael said Mr Somers was “a good friend of Yemen and the Yemeni people”.