Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) killed American photojournalist Luke Somers and Pierre Korkie, a South African teacher, during a hastily organized rescue attempt by US forces that took place in southern Yemen earlier today. The raid was authorized after AQAP had threatened to kill Somers within 72 hours unless its demands were met.
The rescue attempt and the hostages’ deaths were announced by the US Department of Defense in a press release. The operation “was quickly but thoroughly planned,” after being authorized by President Barack Obama and the Yemeni government on Dec. 5.
“US Special Operations forces were close to the Yemeni compound when al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula terrorists detected them and murdered American Luke Somers and another Western hostage,” the press release stated. “The Yemeni government approved the operation and gave its full support.”
“Military, law enforcement and intelligence specialists pinpointed where AQAP was holding the hostages and the threat the terrorists posed to them,” the statement continues. “Intelligence indicated AQAP planned to murder the hostages within 72 hours, giving added impetus to the attempt.”
The Department of Defense provided some details on the rescue operation. Forty American “special operators” assaulted a “remote compound” in the southern province of Shabwa, an AQAP stronghold, after being dropped off by CV-22 Ospreys “under the cover of darkness.” The operation lasted for at least one hour.
“AQAP terrorists detected the special operators as they began their final approach to the compound and they began firing wildly at the Americans,” the statement says. An AQAP fighter entered the buildings where the hostages were held and shot them.
The special operations forces overran the building and found Somers and Korkie, both of whom were shot but still alive. The two freed captives were flown to the USS Makin Island. “Surgeons and medics worked on the two men on the way to the ship, but one died en route and the other on the operating table,” the statement says.
AQAP threatened to kill Somers
Somers was captured by AQAP in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a one year ago. US special operations forces attempted to rescue Somers and other hostages during a raid in the Hajr as-Say’ar district of Hadramout province during the night between Nov. 24 and Nov. 25. Eight hostages were rescued in that operation, but Somers had been moved prior to the raid.
AQAP reacted to that operation in a speech by senior AQAP leader Nasser bin Ali al Ansi that was released on Dec. 4. In the videotaped speech, Ansi threatened to kill Somers if the US did not give in to a number of undisclosed demands.
Somers then appeared in the video and pled for his life. [See LWJ report, AQAP threatens to execute American hostage.]
“It’s now been well over a year since I’ve been kidnapped in Sana’a,” Somers said in the video. “Basically, I’m looking for any help that can get me out of this situation. I am certain my life is in danger. So as I sit here now, I ask, if anything can be done, please let it be done.”