Monitoring press freedom and international affairs from Mid-Missouri Public Radio and the Missouri School of Journalism

American photojournalist killed in Yemen rescue mission

An American journalist was killed in Yemen in a failed attempt by U.S. and Yemeni soldiers to free him from captors from the group al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

Luke Somers, a 33-year-old freelancer born in the U.K., was kidnapped in September 2013 in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, according to the British newspaper, The Times. Somers had started in Yemen by working as a copy editor and freelance photographer during the 2011 uprising.

The Committee to Protect Journalists had called for the release of Somers after a video of the 33-year-old pleading for his life was released Dec. 3. In the video al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula made demands calling for an “end of U.S. occupations and drone strikes,” and said they would kill Somers within 72 hours if demands were not met.

During the filming, the 33-year-old freelancer photojournalist appeared healthy, but he eagerly asked for help.

“I’m certain that my life is in danger,” he said in the video. “So as I sit here now, I ask if there’s anything that can be done, please let it be done.”

President Barack Obama ordered a rescue attempt on Dec. 5, 2014 for Somers and any other hostages held in the same location.

Somers and South African teacher Pierre Korkie were shot by their captors as U.S. commandos backed by Yemeni forces closed within 100 meters of the compound where they were held, news agencies reported. Both men later died as U.S. forces evacuated them. Korkie was just hours from being released after his family raised money to pay a ransom to the group.

President Obama issued a statement condemning the “barbaric murder” of Luke Somers.

Somers is the third abducted American freelance journalist to have died this year, after James Foley and Steven Sotloff were killed in Syria by the Islamic State.

"Luke Somers went to Yemen to bring us the news," said Robert Mahoney, CPJ's deputy director, in a statement. "Instead he became the news at the hands of militants who increasingly use journalists as pawns in a murderous political game."

Monitoring press freedom and international affairs from Mid-Missouri Public Radio and the Missouri School of Journalism.
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