A US photojournalist has been killed by militants during an operation aimed at freeing him from Al-Qaeda kidnappers in Yemen, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has said.
Luke Somers was kidnapped by Al-Qaeda more than one year ago
“US Special Operations Forces conducted a mission in Yemen to rescue a US citizen, Luke Somers, and any other foreign nationals held hostage with him by Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) terrorists” Hagel said in a statement released during a visit to Kabul.
Barack Obama condemned what described as Mr Somer’s “barbaric murder”.
“On behalf of the American people, I offer my deepest condolences to Luke’s family and to his loved ones,” he said in a statement.
“As this and previous hostage rescue operations demonstrate, the United States will spare no effort to use all of its military, intelligence and diplomatic capabilities to bring Americans home safely, wherever they are located.
“And terrorists who seek to harm our citizens will feel the long arm of American justice,” he said.
“The callous disregard for Luke’s life is more proof of the depths of AQAP’s depravity, and further reason why the world must never cease in seeking to defeat their evil ideology,” he said
US and Yemeni forces had launched a joint operation to try to rescue the 33-year-old American photojournalist.
A second hostage, a non-US citizen, was also murdered during the operation.
Ten militants were also reported killed during the operation in Shabwa province in southeast Yemen.
Yemen’s defence ministry previously said on its website that he had been freed, but US media reported that Somers had been killed in the rescue attempt, quoting his sister.
A tribal leader said soldiers of an unknown nationality were seen parachuting into the area.
Heavy clashes ensued in Nusab, a militant stronghold, according to residents who reported hearing loud explosions.
On Thursday Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula threatened the imminent execution of Mr Somers.
The US has said an unsuccessful attempt to rescue Mr Somers by American and Yemini forces was made last month.
According to Yemen’s defence ministry, Al-Qaeda moved hostages, including the US journalist, a Briton and a South African, days before the earlier US-Yemeni raid in southeastern Hadramawt province.
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.
The Arabian Peninsula is considered by Washington as the most dangerous affiliate of Al-Qaeda.