(CNN) — Al Qaeda militants killed American hostage Luke Somers in Yemen during a raid conducted by U.S. forces to rescue him, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Saturday.
President Barack Obama ordered the raid because “there were compelling reasons to believe Mr. Somers’ life was in imminent danger,” he said.
During the raid Friday, the militants also killed a second hostage, South African Pierre Korkie, according to his employer, Gift of the Givers.
It was the second such attempt by U.S. forces in two weeks.
In the first attempt in November, U.S. and Yemeni special forcesoutfitted with night visors embarked on the mission about a few miles from a cave where al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — or AQAP — was holding hostages.
A gunbattle ensued, and the special forces killed all seven abductors and freed eight hostages. But the militants had separated Somers and four more hostages from the group and moved them to another location two days before the raid.
This week, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula released a video threatening to kill Somers and showing the American photojournalist pleading for his life.
A spokesman read a statement saying Somers would meet his inevitable fate if Washington did not meet the terror group’s demands. The spokesman did not name the demands but said the U.S. government knew what they were.
They gave U.S. officials three days to comply. That time was due to run out.
Family pleaded for his life
Somers appeared in the AQAP video asking for help and identifying himself.
“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,” he said.
Somers’ brother and mother posted a response video to YouTube in which they pleaded with the militants to spare him.
His brother, Jordan Somers, asked the militants not to fault Somers or his family for the previous rescue attempt.
“He is not responsible for any actions that the U.S. government has taken. Please understand that we had no prior knowledge of the rescue attempt for Luke, and we mean no harm to anyone,” Jordan Somers said.
The American hostage was dressed in a nice shirt in the militant video and at least appeared clean and healthy. This did not escape his mother.
Paula Somers thanked them for taking good care of him in the family’s response video, but also asked her son be returned to her alive.
“Please show mercy and give us an opportunity to see our Luke again. He is all that we have,” she said.