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'Barbaric' hostage murder condemned


Luke Somers was kidnapped over a year ago by al Qaida (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

Luke Somers was kidnapped over a year ago by al Qaida (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

Luke Somers was kidnapped over a year ago by al Qaida (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

The US and UK have both condemned the "barbaric" murder of a British-born photojournalist by terrorists during a failed rescue attempt in Yemen.

American citizen Luke Somers, 33, who was held hostage for more than a year by al Qaida, was killed last night by his captors during the second rescue attempt by the US military last night.

US president Barack Obama said he had sanctioned the night-time operation in Yemen's southern Shabwa state because the reporter was in "imminent danger".

On Thursday, a video featuring Mr Somers, who was captured in the capital Sana'a in September last year, was released by the group al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) who threatened to kill their hostage if the US authorities did not meet their demands in three days.

In a statement, the US president said: "The United States strongly condemns the barbaric murder of Luke Somers at the hands of al Qaida terrorists during a rescue operation conducted by US forces in Yemen in partnership with the Yemeni government.

"On behalf of the American people, I offer my deepest condolences to Luke's family and to his loved ones."

Mr Obama added that information "indicated that Luke's life was in imminent danger".

"Based on this assessment, and as soon as there was reliable intelligence and an operational plan, I authorised a rescue attempt."

Mr Somers' sister Lucy said the family were informed of his death by the FBI this morning.

Lucy Somers told the Associated Press: "We ask that all of Luke's family members be allowed to mourn in peace."

A second hostage was also killed in the mission, named by aid charity Gift of Givers as South African teacher Pierre Korkie.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said he "salutes" the forces involved in the mission and offered his condolences to the families of both men.

"My deepest condolences are with the families of both hostages at this time," he said.

"We utterly condemn AQAP for the brutal murder of these two men.

"Luke had close links with the UK and his family have spoken about Luke's life and his work, and that is how he should be remembered.

"I salute the forces involved, who showed great courage in carrying out this mission.

"We continue to work with our international and Yemeni partners to counter the threat from al Qaida and other terrorist groups."

A senior Obama administration official told the Associated Press that militants tried to kill Mr Somers just before the raid, wounding him.

US commandos then flew Mr Somers to a Navy ship in the region where he died.

On Thursday, the Pentagon confirmed that last month the US military had sought to rescue Mr Somers, but that he had not been found.

On the same day, AQAP issued a video on Thursday threatening to kill the hostage within three days if its demands were not met by the US authorities.

It began with a reading in Arabic from Nasser bin Ali al Ansi, an AQAP official, before Mr Somers gave a statement in English.

He said: "My name is Luke Somers. I'm 33 years old. I was born in England, but I carry American citizenship and have lived in America for most of my life.

"It's now been well over a year since I've been kidnapped in Sana'a. Basically, I'm looking for any help that can get me out of this situation. I'm certain that my life is in danger.

"So as I sit here now, I ask if anything can be done, please let it be done. Thank you very much."

The three-minute video also features Mr Ansi speaking about American activity in Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq as well as recent air strikes in Syria.

The family of Mr Somers, who was captured in September 2013, had earlier pleaded for him to be released.

In an online video, his sister Lucy 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".

The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors Jihadist groups, reported that Yemeni jihadists said on Twitter that they had "anticipated" the attack.

It follows similar videos by another extremist militant group, Islamic State (IS), which has already killed two British hostages and three American hostages in videos released on social media.

IS has posted a series of videos online showing the separate murders of US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, US aid worker Peter Kassig and two British aid workers, David Haines and Alan Henning.

Footage claiming to show Mr Henning's murder appeared on the internet just days after the UK joined US-led air strikes against the terrorists in Iraq.

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