An American journalist held captive by al-Qaida militants in Yemen for more than a year was killed in a failed U.S. rescue attempt, his sister told the Associated Press.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel confirmed Somers’ death and said the U.S. had compelling reasons to believe that the American’s life was in danger. Hagel, who arrived n Kabul on an unannounced visit Saturday, told reporters Somers was “murdered” by terrorists.
Luke Somers, 33, was apparently shot by his captors during the raid by U.S commandos and was badly wounded by the time the commandos reached him, according to the New York Times. He was flown to a Naval ship in the region, where he died from his injuries, a senior U.S. official told the Times.
Update At 5:40 a.m. ET
President Obama released a statement strongly condemning the “barbaric murder” of Somers and offered condolences to his family. He also said a non-U.S. citizen hostage was killed in the rescue attempt. The statement continues:
“As Commander-in-Chief, I am grateful to the U.S. forces who carried out this mission as well as the previous attempt to rescue Luke, and to the dedicated intelligence, law enforcement, and diplomatic professionals who supported their efforts. I also deeply appreciate the support and assistance provided by President Hadi and the Yemeni government, and reiterate our strong commitment to combating the shared threat posed by (al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula).”
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Lucy Somers told the AP that she and her father learned of her brother’s death from FBI agents. A U.S. defense official in Kabul confirmed Somers’ death but was unable to give details of the rescue attempt, Reuters reported.
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen’s al-Qaida branch, posted a video of Somers on Thursday in which militants threatened to kill him in three days if the United States failed to meet their demands.
Somers, a copy editor and freelance photographer who worked for the the National Yemen, was kidnapped as he left a supermarket in Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, in 2013, chief editor Fakhri al-Arashi told AP.
The news agency said it was not the first mission to rescue Somers:
“In a statement Thursday, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby acknowledged for the first time that a mysterious U.S. raid last month had sought to rescue Somers but that he turned out not to be at the site. The U.S. considers Yemen’s al-Qaida branch to be the world’s most dangerous arm of the group as it has been linked to several failed attacks on the U.S. homeland.”