Yemeni Qaeda threatens to kill US hostage

Al-Qaeda is threatening the imminent execution of an American journalist it kidnapped in Yemen, mocking as “foolish” a failed bid by US forces to free him.

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Al-Qaeda in Yemen released a video dated December 2014 naming the hostage as Luke Somers, 33, saying the photojournalist was kidnapped more than a year ago in Sanaa.

US-based monitoring agency SITE Intelligence Group said Somers was seized in the Yemeni capital in September 2013.

Nasser bin Ali Al-Ansi, of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), threatened in the video to kill Somers in three days if Washington fails to meet unspecified demands.

The Yemeni defence ministry said last week that al-Qaeda had moved hostages, including a US journalist, a Briton and a South African, days before a raid in southeastern Hadramawt province to free the hostages.

Ansi mentioned a “failed operation” in Hadramawt in which militants died, describing it as the “latest foolish action” by the US.

The US said on Thursday that American and Yemeni forces recently tried to rescue Somers.

“Regrettably, Luke was not present, though hostages of other nationalities were present and were rescued,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan.

The White House said President Barack Obama had approved a rescue operation last month.

The New York Times reported that US special operations forces found eight other hostages in the raid.

About two dozen commandos from the US Navy’s SEALs, joined by a small number of Yemeni troops, flew by helicopter to a location near the Saudi border, the Times reported, citing US and Yemeni officials.

The SEALs then walked several hundred metres at night to a mountain cave, taking al-Qaeda militants by surprise, it said.

While AQAP is considered by Washington as the most dangerous affiliate of al-Qaeda, it is not known for frequently executing foreign hostages.

Its threat follows the murder of five Western hostages since August by the Islamic State group that controls parts of Syria and Iraq.