DETAILS: American Hostage Murdered During Failed Rescue Attempt in Yemen
American hostage Luke Somers was killed by Al Qaeda militants in Yemen during a U.S. special operations mission to rescue the freelance photographer, who was captured in September 2013.
Peter Doocy reported on "America's News Headquarters" today that President Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel approved the rescue mission yesterday, based on threats from Al Qaeda on Thursday that Somers' execution was imminent.
Doocy said that at 5 p.m. ET last night, 40 Americans took Osprey aircraft to a landing site approximately 10 kilometers away from where Somers and another hostage, South African Pierre Korkie, were being held.
The U.S. soldiers walked toward the location of the hostages, but were somehow discovered about 100 meters from the target, Doocy said. After a five-to-10-minute firefight against Al Qaeda militants, they secured the area.
Officials believe the hostages were shot by militants right away, Doocy said.
The Associated Press reported that a badly wounded Somers made it to a nearby U.S. Navy ship, the USS Makin Island, where he succumbed to his wounds. Korkie died before reaching the ship.
No other Americans were injured during the operation, Doocy said, which was the second attempt by the U.S. to rescue Somers.
"This is further evidence of America's continued commitment to always find its American hostages no matter where they are and make every effort to get those hostages returned to the United States," Hagel said.
Obama said in a statement, "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."
Doocy reported that Somers' sister said his family received news of his murder at midnight ET.
The news of the failed rescue comes after a suspected U.S. drone strike in Yemen killed nine alleged Al Qaeda militants early Saturday, 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 Saturday, tribal leaders said they saw helicopters flying over an area called Wadi Abdan in Shabwa province.
American authorities rarely discuss their drone strike campaign in Yemen. The strikes are despised by many in Yemen due to civilian casualties, legitimizing for many the attacks on American interests. At least six suspected militants were killed in an airstrike in the same province last month.
Before her brother's death, Lucy Somers released an online video describing him as a romantic who "always believes the best in people." She ended with the plea: "Please let him live."
In a statement, Somers' father, Michael, also called his son "a good friend of Yemen and the Yemeni people" and asked for his safe release.
Korkie was kidnapped in the Yemeni city of Taiz in May 2013, along with his wife Yolande. His wife later was released returned to South Africa. A non-governmental group, Gift of the Givers, helped mediate her release. Those close to Korkie said al-Qaida militants demanded a $3 million ransom for his release.
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