An American photojournalist and a South African teacher who were held by al-Qaeda militants in Yemen were killed on Saturday in a U.S.-led rescue operation.
U.S officials believe the militants shot the men during a firefight and that they were still alive when American forces pulled them from a building and put them on an aircraft. The rescue operation was ordered by President Barack Obama who said the two were in “imminent danger,” according to the Huffington Post.
[quote text_size=”small” author=”– Barack Obama” author_title=”President of the United States”]
It is my highest responsibility to do everything possible to protect American citizens. 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.
South African Pierre Korkie is believed to have died during the flight, while American Luke Somers died on the ship. The raid was the second failed rescue attempt by the United States to rescue Somers from Yemen in less than two weeks, according to the New York Times.
American officials said they were facing a short deadline. Somers’s captors said in a video statement on Wednesday that Somers would be killed by Saturday unless their demands were met. The ultimatum appeared to be a response to the first raid on November 25. The operation, led by United States Special Operations Commandos, freed eight hostages and killed seven militants but found no sign of Somers, who had been moved days before.
Somers was part of a group of freelance journalists covering the aftermath of Yemen’s 2011 uprising. Somers had been held by al-Qaeda militants since he was abducted in Sanaa in September 2013.
Korkie was a teacher who was abducted in Yemen in May 2013 with his wife. His wife, Yolande Korkie, had previously been released by al-Qaeda, USA Today reported.
In the village where the raid occurred, in the province of Shabwah, a tribal leader named Tarek al-Daghari al-Awlaki said American forces raided four homes and killed at least two militants as well as eight civilians, including a 70-year-old man.
The operation began before dawn on Saturday in a region that is a stronghold of al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch. Drones struck the area of Wadi Abdan, followed by jet runs before Yemeni ground forces moved in. U.S.officials said no American forces were injured or killed, and the American military team was on the ground for about 30 minutes.