7 December 2014

Joint American-Yemeni rescue mission results in tragedy as two hostages die

The New York Times reports that early on 5 December an American photojournalist and a South African teacher were killed during a joint rescue operation orchestrated by the US and aided by the Yemeni government. The hostages were being held by militants from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

According to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, the rescue mission, consisting of 40 US special operations forces and backed up by Yemeni ground forces, was approved by President Barack Obama on 4 December and had Yemen’s permission to proceed with the raid on Yemen’s territory. In a statement that was released, Yemen’s Supreme Security Committee officially confirmed the joint character of the endeavour.

The Wall Street Journal reports that, according to officials, the rescue team landed about five miles away and hiked to the targeted compound, but less than 100 yards from their target a noise alerted the militants and the team lost its biggest advantage, namely the element of surprise. As the fire broke out it appears that one APAQ militant rushed inside the building where the hostages were being held, emerging a few moments later. US officials believe that that is when the two hostages were shot. Both hostages were evacuated but later died due to the gun shots.

According to the same source, US officials said they do not believe stray bullets fired by the rescue team could have reached the hostages because there was a wall separating the commandos from the building where they were held.

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Source: The New York Times | American, South African Hostages Killed in Yemen
Source: BBC | US hostage Luke Somers and SA Pierre Korkie killed during Yemen rescue bid
Source: The Wall Street Journal | Luke Somers Raid in Yemen: How It Went Wrong

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