American and South African hostages killed in botched Yemen rescue bid

American journalist Luke Somers and South African teacher Pierre Korkie were killed on Saturday during a failed attempt by US forces to rescue them from Al Qaeda militants in Yemen. Somers’s death was announced by US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, who said the raid was carried out because the photojournalist’s life was believed to be “in imminent danger”. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) had on Thursday threatened to execute Somers, 33, who was kidnapped more than a year ago in Sanaa. South African hostage Pierre Korkie was also killed in the raid, according to a charity that had been negotiating his release. The Gift of the Givers said that Korkie’s death came a day before he was due to be freed after more than a year in captivity.

The psychological and emotional devastation to (his wife) Yolande and her family will be compounded by the knowledge that Pierre was to be released by Al Qaeda tomorrow.

Statement released by charity Gift of the Givers

Ten militants were killed in the joint operation in Shabwa province in southeast Yemen, Yemen’s defence ministry said. A tribal leader said soldiers were seen parachuting into the area. Heavy clashes ensued in Nusab, a militant stronghold, according to residents who reported hearing loud explosions. Yemen is a key US ally in the fight against Al Qaeda, allowing Washington to conduct a longstanding drone war against the group on its territory. AQAP is considered by Washington to be the most dangerous affiliate of Al Qaeda. The execution threat by AQAP followed the murder of five Western hostages since August by the Islamic State group that controls parts of Syria and Iraq.

Luke’s life in Yemen these past three and a half years should not have ended with a kidnapping but with a great reward. The fact that he chose to live in Yemen and not the United States shows where his sympathies lay.

Michael Somers