President Barack Obama and other top US officials released statements early Saturday morning condemning the killing of American photojournalist Luke Somers during an unsuccessful rescue attempt in Yemen.
“The United States strongly condemns the barbaric murder of Luke Somers at the hands of Al-Qa’ida terrorists during a rescue operation conducted by U.S. forces in Yemen in partnership with the Yemeni government. On behalf of the American people, I offer my deepest condolences to Luke’s family and to his loved ones,” Obama said. “Their despair and sorrow at this time are beyond words.”
Obama said Somers was kidnapped in Yemen 15 months ago and an imminent threat to his life spurred US action against the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula militants who captured him. Another hostage was also killed and was identified as South African citizen Pierre Korkie, according to The New York Times.
“It is my highest responsibility to do everything possible to protect American citizens. As this and previous hostage rescue operations demonstrate, the United States will spare no effort to use all of its military, intelligence, and diplomatic capabilities to bring Americans home safely, wherever they are located. And terrorists who seek to harm our citizens will feel the long arm of American justice,” Obama said.
View the full statements of Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel below.
“The United States strongly condemns the barbaric murder of Luke Somers at the hands of Al-Qa’ida terrorists during a rescue operation conducted by U.S. forces in Yemen in partnership with the Yemeni government. On behalf of the American people, I offer my deepest condolences to Luke’s family and to his loved ones. I also offer my thoughts and prayers to the family of a non-U.S. citizen hostage who was also murdered by these terrorists during the rescue operation. Their despair and sorrow at this time are beyond words.
It is my highest responsibility to do everything possible to protect American citizens. As this and previous hostage rescue operations demonstrate, the United States will spare no effort to use all of its military, intelligence, and diplomatic capabilities to bring Americans home safely, wherever they are located. And terrorists who seek to harm our citizens will feel the long arm of American justice.
Luke Somers was kidnapped fifteen months ago in Yemen and held hostage by Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Since his capture, the United States has been using every tool at our disposal to secure his release. Earlier this week, a video released by his terrorist captors announced that Luke would be killed within 72 hours. Other information also indicated that Luke’s life was in imminent danger. Based on this assessment, and as soon as there was reliable intelligence and an operational plan, I authorised a rescue attempt yesterday. I also authorised the rescue of any other hostages held in the same location as Luke.
Luke was a photojournalist who sought through his images to convey the lives of Yemenis to the outside world. He came to Yemen in peace and was held against his will and threatened by a despicable terrorist organisation. 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.
As Commander-in-Chief, I am grateful to the U.S. forces who carried out this mission as well as the previous attempt to rescue Luke, and to the dedicated intelligence, law enforcement, and diplomatic professionals who supported their efforts. I also deeply appreciate the support and assistance provided by President Hadi and the Yemeni government, and reiterate our strong commitment to combating the shared threat posed by AQAP.
We remember Luke and his family, as well as the families of those Americans who are still being held captive overseas and those who have lost loved ones to the brutality of these and other terrorists. We remain determined to do our utmost to bring them home, and to hold those who have done them harm accountable.”
“The murder of Luke Somers by his captors during a rescue operation is a reminder of the brutality of the terrorists of Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). They have again demonstrated their cruelty and their disdain for human life, freedom, and the Yemeni people whom they terrorize daily.
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, and so we recommended that the President authorise an attempt to rescue Luke. Tragically, Luke and a foreign national hostage were killed by their captors during the course of that operation.
Even in our grief, we couldn’t be more proud of the brave men and women of the U.S. military who twice risked their lives in operations to try and bring Luke home safely. We also appreciate the efforts of the dedicated intelligence, law enforcement, and diplomatic professionals who supported these operations, and we are particularly grateful to the Yemeni government, under the leadership of President Hadi, for their critical and supportive role in trying to liberate this young American from unfathomable captivity, and for their enduring partnership in combating the scourge of AQAP.
AQAP knows how to hate, they know how to murder, and now they have robbed a family of an idealistic young photojournalist who went to Yemen to practice his calling and document the lives of ordinary Yemenis. As a parent, I know there are no words that can assuage the loss that Luke’s family has suffered, or the anguish of the family of the second hostage who was killed. There’s no way to wipe away their pain. But Teresa and I both pray that they can find some small solace in knowing that the United States government and all of our people grieve with them, and that there were brave Americans in uniform willing to lay down their own lives so that they had a chance to live. We also pray for the families of all the innocents who are held against their will, whose safe return we work towards every day.”
“Yesterday, by order of the President of the United States, U.S. Special Operations Forces conducted a mission in Yemen to rescue a U.S. citizen, Luke Somers, and any other foreign nationals held hostage with him by Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) terrorists. There were compelling reasons to believe Mr. Somers’ life was in imminent danger.
Both Mr. Somers and a second non-U.S. citizen hostage were murdered by the AQAP terrorists during the course of the operation. On behalf of the men and women of the U.S. armed forces, I extend our condolences, thoughts, and prayers to their families and loved ones.
Several of the AQAP terrorists holding the hostages captive were killed in the mission.
The rescue attempt took place in central Yemen and was conducted in partnership with the Government of Yemen. I thank President Hadi, the Yemeni government, and Yemen security forces for their assistance and cooperation.
Yesterday’s mission is a reminder of America’s unrelenting commitment to the safety of our fellow citizens – wherever they might be around the world.
I commend the troops who undertook this dangerous mission. Their service and valor are an inspiration to all of us.”
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