By Ahmed Al-Haj ,AP
SANAA, Yemen — An American photojournalist and a South African teacher held by al-Qaida militants in Yemen were killed Saturday during a failed U.S.-led rescue attempt, a raid U.S. President Barack Obama said he ordered over an ��imminent danger�� to the reporter.
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula previously posted a video online threatening to kill photographer Luke Somers, prompting a second rescue attempt for him by American forces backed by Yemeni ground troops. But an aid group helping negotiate the release of South African Pierre Korkie said he was to be freed Sunday and his wife was told only that morning: ��The wait is almost over.��
Information ��indicated that Luke’s life was in imminent danger,�� Obama said in a statement. ��Based on this assessment, and as soon as there was reliable intelligence and an operational plan, I authorized a rescue attempt.��
Lucy Somers, the photojournalist’s sister, told The Associated Press that she and her father learned of her 33-year-old 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 near London.
Yemen’s national security chief, Maj. Gen. Ali al-Ahmadi, said the militants planned to kill Luke Somers on Saturday, prompting the joint mission.
��Al-Qaida promised to conduct the execution (of Somers) today so there was an attempt to save them but unfortunately they shot the hostage before or during the attack,�� al-Ahmadi said at a conference in Manama, Bahrain. ��He was freed but unfortunately he was dead.��
The operation began before dawn Saturday in Yemen’s southern Shabwa province, a stronghold of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the country’s local branch of the terror group. U.S. drone struck first the Wadi Abdan area first, followed by strafing runs by jets and Yemeni ground forces moving in, a Yemeni security official said.
At least nine al-Qaida militants were killed in an initial drone strike, another security official said. Both spoke on condition of anonymity.
Both Somers and Korkie ��were murdered by the AQAP terrorists during the course of the operation,�� U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said from Kabul, Afghanistan.