US confirms failed hostage rescue in Yemen

An attempt to rescue American hostage Luke Somers in Yemen failed, the Obama administration acknowledged Thursday, after an al Qaeda affiliate released a video threatening to kill him.

"Last month, the president authorized an operation to rescue Luke,” said Bernadette Meehan, National Security Council spokeswoman, in a statement. "Regrettably, Luke was not present, though hostages of other nationalities were present and were rescued."

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The raid was undertaken last week by Yemeni and U.S. special operations forces, in an attempt to rescue Somers, a 33-year old British-born American photojournalist, who was captured by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in September 2013.

"This operation was conducted in partnership with the armed forces of Yemen and involved air and ground components. Some hostages were rescued, but others — including Somers — were not present at the targeted location," Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said.

In a video released Thursday, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula threatened to kill Somers, unless its demands were met in three days.

Kirby said details of the rescue operation remain classified, and the operation was only acknowledged in order to provide accurate information following media reports about the raid.

"The overriding concern for Mr. Somers’s safety and the safety of the U.S. forces who undertake these missions made it imperative that we not disclose information related to Mr. Somers’s captivity and the attempted rescue," Meehan said.

Meehan said  President Obama had authorized the operation after receiving reliable intelligence and having an operational plan.

The Yemen operation is the second failed attempt at rescuing an American hostage this year. The first was an attempt to rescue James Foley in July, an American journalist who was held in Syria and beheaded by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

In Foley and Somer's cases, both hostages were reportedly moved just days before the operation.  

"At this difficult time, our thoughts remain with the Somers family, and with the families and loved ones of every other U.S. citizen being held hostage overseas," Meehan said.

"As we have said repeatedly, the United States government is committed to the safety and well-being of its citizens, particularly those suffering in captivity," she said.