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10 Yemenis, 2 US, South African Hostages Killed in Rescue Attempt by US Special Forces, December 6, 2014

US photo journalist, Luke Somers South African Teacher, Pierre Korkie

Arabic source:  

At least 13 killed in failed U.S. bid to rescue hostages in Yemen

By Mohammed Ghobari and Mohammed Mukhashaf

SANAA/ADEN Sun Dec 7, 2014 10:01am EST

(Reuters) -

A woman, a 10-year-old boy and a local al Qaeda leader were among at least 11 people killed alongside two Western hostages when U.S.-led forces battled militants in a failed rescue mission in Yemen, residents said on Sunday.  

Freelancer Luke Somers killed in US hostage rescue attempt in Yemen

Yemen News, December 6, 2014

CPJ Statement

New York, December 6, 2014–Luke Somers, an American freelance journalist held hostage by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, was killed along with fellow hostage Pierre Korkie, a South African teacher, during a failed rescue attempt by U.S. special forces on Saturday morning in Yemen, according to U.S. officials and news reports.

President Barack Obama said in a statement Saturday that the hostages were “murdered” by the militants during the operation to rescue them.

“Luke Somers went to Yemen to bring us the news. Instead he became the news at the hands of militants who increasingly use journalists as pawns in a murderous political game,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “As journalists we must rally to continue the work of our fallen colleagues, to seek justice in their names, and to protect all those who go out in the field every day despite the danger.”

Somers, who was abducted in September 2013, is the third American freelance journalist to die this year while being held captive, after James Foley and Steven Sotloff were murdered in Syria. Saturday’s raid is at least the third to be launched by U.S. special forces in an attempt to rescue American journalists held hostage in Syria and Yemen.

All of the raids failed to rescue the journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented at least seven other abductions of journalists in Yemen in 2013, all but one of whom were local. Those journalists were all eventually released.




South African killed in Yemen hostage rescue plan


Dec 6, 2014


South African Pierre Korkie was just a day from freedom, after being held captive for 18 months by al-Qaida in Yemen, when he was killed in a U.S. rescue attempt Saturday, according to the non-governmental group Gift of the Givers.

Korkie, one of two hostages killed in the military effort, had been working as a teacher in Yemen before he was kidnapped. Negotiators said they had reached agreement for him to be released Sunday.

"A team of Abyan (Yemeni) leaders met in Aden this morning and were preparing the final security and logistical arrangements, related to hostage release mechanisms, to bring Pierre to safety and freedom," said Imtiaz Sooliman, founder of Gift of the Givers. "It is even more tragic that the words we used in a conversation with Yolande at 5:59 this morning was: 'The wait is almost over.'"

Korkie was kidnapped in the Yemeni city of Taiz in May 2013, along with his wife Yolande, who was doing relief work there. She was released in January without ransom as a result of negotiations by the South African relief group.

However al-Qaida militants demanded a $3 million ransom for Korkie's release, according to those close to the negotiations. Although the ransom demand was dropped, the kidnappers demanded a "facilitation fee," said the aid group. The undisclosed amount was raised by Korkie's family and friends, according to the South African Press Agency (SAPA).

On Nov. 26 an agreement was reached for him to be released and he was to be freed on Sunday, said Sooliman, founder of Gift of the Givers, a prominent aid group in South Africa.

View gallery This is an undated photo provided by the Korkie family, of South African Pierre Korkie. An American  …

Korkie was killed early Saturday morning when U.S. forces swooped in to try to free him and fellow hostage, American Luke Somers.

"The psychological and emotional devastation to Yolande and her family will be compounded by the knowledge that Pierre was to be released by al Qaida tomorrow (Sunday)," Gift of Givers said in a statement Saturday. Korkie, 56, is survived by his wife and two children.

Speaking Saturday, Sooliman said: "You can't blame anybody for this. You can't accuse or blame them (the U.S. forces). It's just unfortunate that it happened."

Korkie was a dedicated teacher, said a family friend. "Teaching was his life. His heart took him to Yemen. He loved teaching the poor," said Daan Nortier, who is acting as a family spokesman.

Korkie's body is currently held by the U.S. forces and the South African government will work with the U.S. military and the Yemeni government for the repatriation of his remains, said Nelson Kgwete, spokesman of South Africa's Department of International Relations.

Among the many South Africans expressing sorrow at Korkie's death was South African runner Zola Budd, who was once coached by Korkie. Budd is devastated, her manager Ray de Vries said in a statement Saturday, according to the South African Press Agency.

Earlier this year, Budd participated in South Africa's Comrades Marathon and dedicated her run to Korkie and appealed for his release.

US South African hostages killed in rescue attempt in Yemen

By Mohammed Ghobari and Mohammed Mukhashaf

SANAA/ADEN Sat Dec 6, 2014 11:34am EST

(Reuters) -

A U.S. journalist and a South African teacher held by al-Qaeda militants in Yemen were killed along with some of their captors during a night rescue attempt by U.S. and Yemeni forces in a remote desert village, officials said on Saturday.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and a Yemeni intelligence official said Luke Somers, 33, and South African Pierre Korkie were shot by their kidnappers shortly after the raid began in the arid Wadi Abadan district of Shabwa, a province in southern Yemen long seen as one of al Qaeda's most formidable strongholds.

Kerry said the operation, the second attempt to free Somers in 10 days, had only been approved because of information that the American's life was in imminent danger.     

However, the Gift of the Givers relief group, which was trying to secure Korkie's release, said it had negotiated for the teacher to be freed and had expected that to happen on Sunday and for him to be returned to his family.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is seen by Washington as one of the movement's most dangerous branches. The United States has worked with the Yemeni government and via drone strikes to attack its leadership in southern and eastern parts of Yemen.

"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," President Barack Obama said in a statement.

He said he had authorised the attempted rescue and said the United States would "spare no effort to use all of its military, intelligence and diplomatic capabilities to bring Americans home safely, wherever they are located".

Somers was moved from the scene of the rescue attempt but died later from his wounds, a senior official in the Yemeni president's office said.

Gift of the Givers said on its website: "We received with sadness the news that Pierre was killed in an attempt by American Special Forces, in the early hours of this morning, to free hostages in Yemen."

It added: "The psychological and emotional devastation to (Korkie's wife) Yolande and her family will be compounded by the knowledge that Pierre was to be released by al Qaeda tomorrow ... Three days ago we told her 'Pierre will be home for Christmas'."

A South African government spokesman declined to comment.

There was no new information about three other hostages, a Briton, a Turk and a Yemeni, who had previously been held alongside Somers and Korkie, a Yemeni security official told Reuters.

Lucy Somers, the photojournalist’s sister, told the Associated Press that she and her father learned of her brother's death from FBI agents at 0500 GMT (12 a.m. EST) Saturday.

"We ask that all of Luke's family members be allowed to mourn in peace," she said from London.


Kerry said the decision to mount the raid was based on fears that AQAP planned to kill Somers.

"Earlier this week, AQAP released a video announcing that Luke would be murdered within 72 hours. Along with other information, there was a compelling indication that Luke's life was in immediate danger," Kerry said.

U.S. officials on Thursday said American forces had already attempted to rescue Somers, without giving details. Yemeni officials had previously disclosed the release of six Yemenis, a Saudi and an Ethiopian hostage in a raid on Nov. 25. [ID:nL6N0TO4HT][ID:nL6N0TF07L]

There were contradictory accounts of how Saturday's raid unfolded and how many of the kidnappers were killed. A Yemeni official said on Saturday morning that 10 al Qaeda suspects had died in the raid.

A U.S. official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said American special forces had conducted the operation alone at 1 a.m. in Yemen, but that the kidnappers had been alerted to their approach shortly before they arrived.

The official said the kidnappers then "executed" the hostages, who each sustained multiple gunshot wounds. One died during the flight out and another aboard a U.S. ship.

At no point was there an exchange of fire in the part of the compound where the hostages were being held, the source said, and at no point did U.S. forces shoot into that part of the building.

A senior U.S. official said Yemen's President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi had given his support for the operation.

Although the United States knew there were two hostages at the location, and that one of them was Somers, it did not know that the other was Korkie, the senior Washington official said.

The rescue team was made up of about 40 members of Special Operations forces, and the raid lasted about 30 minutes from start to finish, said the U.S. officials.

Yemen's government said in a statement carried on state media that its security forces had led the raid. It said the security forces had surrounded the house and called on the kidnappers to surrender, but they instead shot the hostages.

That led to an assault on the building in which four Yemeni security officers were also wounded, it said. The statement said the house belonged to suspected militant Saeed al-Daghaari, which another Yemeni security source told Reuters it was in the village of Dafaar in the Wadi Abadan district of Shabwa.

"It's a very small village with only 20-40 houses. There were very quick clashes with the gunmen and then it was all finished," a tribal source from the area said.

AQAP on Thursday released a video showing a man it said was Somers saying: "I'm looking for any help that can get me out of this situation. I'm certain that my life is in danger". Reuters was not able to independently verify the authenticity of that video, which was reported on by SITE Monitoring.

(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason in Washington, Peter Salisbury in Sanaa, Yara Bayoumy in Manama, Phil Stewart in Kabul; Stella Mapenzauswa in Johannesburg; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Mark Trevelyan)


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