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Hostage American Photojournalist Killed in Yemen During Failed Rescue Attempt

Al Qaeda-linked militants in Yemen killed Luke Somers and another man after a US-led mission to rescue the two men failed.
December 6, 2014, 5:10pm
Photo by Jaber Ahmad Ghrab/AP

Al Qaeda-linked militants killed American photojournalist Luke Somers in Yemen Saturday during a US-led rescue attempt. The terrorists had threatened to execute Somers earlier this week.

The 33-year-old Somers — who was abducted in September 2013 — was fatally wounded during the raid, the Wall Street Journal reported. The militants reportedly heard a noise — possibly a dog barking — and realized the rescue team was nearby. They shot Somers and another hostage, South African teacher Pierre Korkie. The US commandos rescued the two wounded men and brought them to a Navy ship nearby but could not save their lives, the Associated Press reported.


Statement by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on the Death of Luke Somers — Zaid Benjamin (@zaidbenjamin)December 6, 2014

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"There was a compelling indication Luke's life was in immediate danger," Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement, confirming that the Obama administration had authorized a mission to save Somers. "Tragically, Luke and a foreign national were killed by their captors during that operation."

Al Qaeda released a video earlier this week warning they intended to kill Somers within 72 hours. Somers — who was born in Britain but spent most of his life in the US, where he held citizenship — appeared briefly in the video ask for help, wearing a purple shirt and sporting a shaved head.

"Basically, I'm looking for any help that can get me out of this situation," Somers said in the video. "I'm certain that my life is in danger. So as I sit here now, I ask that if there is anything that can be done, let it be done. Thank you."

Somers' mother and brother subsequently released a video begging for mercy from the militants.

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His sister Lucy also created a video plea for the group to spare Somers.

"Luke is a gentle and sensitive person," his sister said in the video. "He's a romantic and always believes the best in people. Photojournalism has always been his way of highlighting the struggles of the Yemeni people. When foreign nationals were asked to leave, Luke refused to go, saying he felt safe and at home there."


Somers first moved to Yemen in February 2011 as a teacher, but within two weeks began photographing protests there. His moving images were published by the BBC and Al Jazeera.

RIP — Arsalan Khan (@akkhan81)December 6, 2014

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Somers also worked for theYemen Times. Prior to the failed rescue attempt Saturday, the paper pleaded for his release, praising Somers' work covering the 2011 uprising in Sana'a and his attention to the struggles of the Yemeni people.

"He photographed the best and worst of Yemen," the newspaper said. "Whether it was marches through the city or violent crackdowns by security forces, Luke showed the world what was happening in our little corner of the world."

The death of the respected photojournalist set off a wave of remorse and homages on social media.

Our condolences to the family and friends of our American martyr Luke Somers. May God bless his soul. — RAMISSA SAFAR (@RAMISSASAFAR)December 6, 2014

— Rejinath (@RejinathR)December 6, 2014

Follow Meredith Hoffman on Twitter: @merhoffman