British al Qaida hostage killed in rescue attempt

Luke Somers. Picture: AP

Luke Somers. Picture: AP

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A British-born photojournalist held by al Qaida militants in Yemen has been killed in a failed rescue attempt, his sister said today.

Lucy Somers said that she learned of her 33-year-old brother Luke Somers’ death from FBI agents. There was no immediate comment from Washington, nor from security officials in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa.

“We ask that all of Luke’s family members be allowed to mourn in peace,” Lucy Somers said.

Yemen’s local al Qaida branch, al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, posted a video on 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 Sana’a.

The news of the failed rescue comes after a suspected US drone strike in Yemen killed nine alleged al Qaida militants early today, a security official said. The drone struck at dawn in Yemen’s southern Shabwa province, hitting a suspected militant hideout, the official said.

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At least six suspected militants were killed in an airstrike in the same province last month. Later today, 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 incredibly unpopular in Yemen due to civilian casualties, legitimising for many the attacks on American interests.

In an online video released earlier today, Lucy Somers described her older brother 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.

In a statement Thursday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby acknowledged for the first time that a mysterious US raid last month had sought to rescue Somers but that he turned out not to be at the site.

The US considers Yemen’s al Qaida branch to be the world’s most dangerous arm of the group as it has been linked to several failed attacks on the US homeland.

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