Al Qaeda branch threatens to kill US reporter held in Yemen
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula released a video Thursday threatening to execute US photojournalist Luke Somers, who was abducted last year in the Yemeni capital, as US officials said that a rescue mission last month had failed to locate him.
The Pentagon said that while some of the hostages were rescued, others had been moved in the days before the rescue was launched.
"The United States attempted a rescue operation recently to free a number of hostages, including US citizen Luke Somers, held in Yemen by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula," Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.
"Some hostages were rescued, but others – including Somers – were not present at the targeted location," Kirby said in a statement.
The New York Times had earlier reported that US special forces had found eight other hostages in the raid.
A Yemeni defense ministry website said last week that al Qaeda had moved some of the hostages – including Somers, as well as a Briton and a South African – days before the rescue mission in southeastern Hadramawt province.
The details of the operation remained classified but the Pentagon decided "to provide accurate information, given that it is being widely reported in the public domain", Kirby said.
The video released by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) included a message by Nasser bin Ali Al-Ansi in which he threatened to kill Somers in three days if Washington failed to meet unspecified demands.
"We use the full breadth of our military, intelligence, law enforcement, and diplomatic capabilities to bring people home whenever we can," the statement said. "The United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people, and will work tirelessly to secure the safety of our citizens and to hold their captors accountable."
White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan confirmed that US President Barack Obama authorised a rescue operation last month to free Somers and other hostages but that, “regrettably, Luke was not present”.
Meehan said the mission was coordinated with the Yemeni government and jointly undertaken by US and Yemeni forces.
“The overriding concern for Mr. Somers' safety, and the safety of the US forces who undertake these missions, made it imperative that we not disclose information related to Mr. Somers' captivity and the attempted rescue,'' Meehan said, adding that the mission was being disclosed now because of the AQAP video released Thursday.
US intelligence agencies say AQAP is the most dangerous regional branch of al Qaeda but it is not known for frequently executing foreign hostages.
The AQAP threat follows the execution of five Western hostages since August by the Islamic State group. US reporters James Foley and Steven Sotloff, American aid worker Peter Kassig, and British aid workers Alan Henning and David Haines were all beheaded by the jihadist group, which now controls large parts of Syria as well as Iraq.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)
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