A new video has emerged showing U.S. citizen Luke Somers pleading for his life as al-Qaeda threatens to murder the 33-year-old hostage. Somers, a photojournalist, was kidnapped in Yemen in September 2013.
Here’s what you need to know about Somers and his dire situation:
1. A U.S. Special Forces Mission Failed to Rescue Him Last Week
On November 25, 2014, a U.S. Special Forces mission to eastern Yemen rescued six Yemenis, a Saudi and an Ethiopian man who were being held at a mountain cave by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, reported the New York Times. There had been rumors that an American was also freed in the mission, but they proved to be false.
The video’s release revealed that the November 25 mission aimed to rescue Somers, and the U.S. government has been forced to acknowledge that. A source told the Washington Post that the mission “narrowly missed him.” Somers had been moved by his captors before the raid.
National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan confirmed at a press conference:
As soon as the U.S. government had reliable intelligence and an operational plan, the president authorized the department of defense to conduct an operation to recover Mr Somers. … The details of the operation remain classified. The overriding concern for Mr Somers’ 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’ captivity and the attempted rescue.
The Department of Defense released this official statement:
Statement by Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby on Rescue Operation in Yemen
The United States attempted a rescue operation recently to free a number of hostages, including U.S. citizen Luke Somers, held in Yemen by Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. 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. Details about the mission remain classified.
We are only acknowledging the fact of the operation now to provide accurate information given that it is being widely reported in the public domain.
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. We use the full breadth of our military, intelligence, law enforcement, and diplomatic capabilities to bring people home whenever we can. The United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people, and will work tirelessly to secure the safety of our citizens and to hold their captors accountable.
2. Somers Is ‘Certain That My Life Is in Danger’
In September 2013 he was taken by al-Qaeda operatives in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, according to the monitoring group SITE Intel. At the time he was taken, Somers had been working in Yemen for two years, according to the Middle East Institute. He was kidnapped in front of a supermarket in broad daylight, reports National Yemen.
In the new video, uploaded on December 4, he pleads for his life:
My name is Luke Somers. I’m 33 years old. I was born in England but I carry American citizenship and have lived in America for most of my life.
It’s now been well over a year since I’ve been kidnapped in Sana’a. Basically I’m looking for any help that can get me out of this situation. I’m certain that my life is in danger.
So as I sit here now, I ask if anything can be done, please let it be done. Thank you very much.
3. He Had Been Working as a Journalist & Translator in Yemen
Somers moved to Yemen in 2011 had been working in the Arabian peninsula as a photojournalist. The Associated Press reports that Somers had been working for the Yemini Times when he was captured of the street in Saan’a: “Since his capture, Yemeni journalists have been holding sit-ins in Sana’a to press the government to seek his release.”
4. He Went to College in Wisconsin
The BBC reports that he had been living in London prior to moving to Yemen.
5. Al-Qaeda Wants to Join Forces With ISIS
The video of Somers also shows al-Qaeda spokesman Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi (above) telling the world that Somers will be executed if demands are not met. Al-Ansi says the U.S. government has three days to meet demands or “otherwise the American hostage held by us will meet his inevitable fate.” Previously, al-Ansi had called on Jihadist groups in Syria to unite against western powers.