Al Qaeda has threatened to murder a British-born American photojournalist, Luke Somers within three days unless the United States of America, USA government gives into a range of demands. The three-minute video featuring the 33-year-old was released earlier Thursday morning by Al Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate, just eight days after American commandos failed to rescue Somers in a daring raid on a terrorist camp.
Somers, who is an American citizen, was captured in the Yemeni capital Sana’a on 17 September, 2013. The video was released by the Al Malahem Media Center, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s propaganda arm, and discovered by the SITE Intelligence Group which monitors terrorist activity online.
The broadcast features Nasser bin Ali al Ansi, who is a senior official in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP. Ansi warned President Barack Obama that unless he accepts the terror group’s demands the American hostage will meet his inevitable fate. During the video, Ansi did not cover his face and was seen reading from a script in Arabic which accuses America of committing crimes against Muslims.
Ansi remains vague about what specific demands need to be met by the U.S. government to ensure Somers’ release, but says the Americans are ‘aware’ of the list. Unlike previous videos produced by ISIS and the Al Hayat Media Center, Somers was not wearing an orange jump suit or was threatened with any form of weapon on screen.
During the video, Somers said ‘‘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.’’
The video was released eight days after American commandos carried out a raid on an AQAP camp, in an attempt to rescue Somers. The raid took place on a cave complex in the remote Hadhramaut province where locals give terrorist cells safe haven. But by the time members of SEAL Team Six, the elite unit that killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011, raided the AQAP camp on 26 November, he had already been moved. However, the special forces recovered a group of eight hostages including six Yemenis, a Saudi Arabian and an Ethiopian.
One of the hostages rescued in the raid allegedly reported that Somers may have been moved out with another group of prisoners two days before the raid took place. Somers was believed to be a part of a group which included citizens from Britain, South Africa and Turkey.
The New York Times reports that A Yemeni electricity company worker named Rasheed al-Habishi was also expected to be in Somers’ camp. On Thursday, his son told the Times that his father’s dead body had been found in a town near where the raid took place. The Pentagon initially asked members of the media not to report on the raid, for fear it would jeopardize Somers’ life, but the story leaked anyway.
It is understood that Somers moved to Sana’a from London in 2010 to work as a teacher. However, he soon started taking photographs of anti-government protests in the city and established himself as a photojournalist working for the Yemen Times. Somers also worked as a translator and as a freelance photographer, with his pictures appearing on websites like the BBC.
The National Yemen newspaper published an article about Somers this week, saying he was ‘known as the most active photojournalist at Change Square’ a protest site at the center of Yemen’s 2011 rebellion against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. However, not much else has been said about Somers, especially about his life before moving to Yemen. The U.S. government tried not to publicise the kidnapping of citizens, in an attempt to shield them from hostage situations like this.
The three-minute video also features Ansi speaking about American activity in Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq as well as recent air strikes in Syria.
It followed similar videos by ISIS, which had already killed two British hostages and three American hostages in videos released on social media. ISIS had posted a series of videos online showing the separate murders of U.S. journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, U.S. aid worker Peter Kassig and two British aid workers, David Haines and Alan Henning.
Footage claiming to show Henning’s murder appeared on the internet just days after the UK joined US-led air strikes against the terrorists in Iraq.
And official figures suggest around 500 Britons have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight for ISIS, while others have joined up with Kurdish groups to fight against the militants. The government last month announced a raft of new anti-extremist measures, including ensuring insurance companies can no longer foot the bill for terrorist ransoms, suspected foreign fighters will be blocked from returning to the UK and powers will be reintroduced to relocate terror suspects across the country.