SANAA, Yemen (AP) – An American photojournalist held by al-Qaeda militants in Yemen has been killed in a failed rescue attempt, his sister said Saturday.
Lucy Somers told The Associated Press that she and her father learned of her 33-year-old brother Luke Somers’ death from FBI agents at 0500 GMT Saturday.
“We ask that all of Luke’s family members be allowed to mourn in peace,” Lucy Somers said from London.
There was no immediate comment from security officials in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa. A US Defence Department official said there was an attempted rescue Friday to free Somers, but he said he had no information on its outcome. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn’t authorised to brief journalists.
Yemen’s local al-Qaeda branch, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, posted a video Thursday that showed Somers, threatening to kill him in three days if the United States didn’t meet the group’s demands, which weren’t specified. He was kidnapped in September 2013 from Sanaa.
The news of the failed rescue comes after a suspected US drone strike in Yemen killed nine alleged al-Qaeda militants early Saturday, a Yemeni security official said before news of Somers’ death. The drone struck at dawn in Yemen’s southern Shabwa province, hitting a suspected militant hideout, the official said. The official did not elaborate and spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn’t authorised to brief journalists.
At least six suspected militants were killed in an airstrike in the same province last month. Later Saturday, tribal leaders said they saw helicopters flying over an area called Wadi Abdan in Shabwa province.
American authorities rarely discuss their drone strike campaign in Yemen. The strikes are despised by many in Yemen due to civilian casualties, legitimising for many the attacks on American interests.
Before her brother’s death, Lucy Somers released an online video describing him as a romantic who “always believes the best in people”. She ended with the plea, “Please let him live.”
In a statement, Somers’ father, Michael, also called his son “a good friend of Yemen and the Yemeni people” and asked for his safe release.