CAIRO – The emergence of the latest video of an American hostage in hostile hands in the Middle East – this time in the chaotic state of Yemen – illustrates the frustrating reality that overwhelmingly superior military force cannot be relied upon to extract U.S. citizens in peril.
Over the last two months, Shiite Muslim Houthi rebels have seized control of the capital, Sanaa, and grabbed chunks of territory elsewhere in the country, even as one of the world’s most dangerous al-Qaida affiliates continues to pose a serious threat.
It is that group, Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula or AQAP, that claims to be holding Luke Somers. The 33-year-old photojournalist went missing in Sanaa in September of last year. In the video obtained this week by the SITE intelligence group, a local al-Qaida commander threatened to kill Somers within three days of the video’s release if unspecified al-Qaida demands were not met.
Though Somers was not paraded under the knife in the manner of the grim series of recorded executions of Westerners held captive in Syria by the Sunni Muslim militants of the Islamic State, the video made it clear that he was well aware of the danger in which he found himself.
Somers, who said he is British-born but holds American citizenship and spent much of his life in the United States, appealed for any measures possible to win his release.
“Basically, I’m looking for any help that can get me out of this situation,” he said. “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.”
A joint U.S.-Yemeni raid on Nov. 25 had been launched in hopes of also rescuing Somers and other Westerners known to be held, U.S. officials confirmed Thursday.
By some accounts, Somers and others were moved days before the strike.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.