Barking dog reportedly ruined US attempt to save Luke Somers
American Luke Somers and South African Pierre Korkie were fatally wounded by militants from the Al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) who were holding them, in a botched attempt by the US special operations forces to rescue them.
Reuters spoke to a number of US officials, who under the condition of anonymity revealed the details of the showdown between US elite team and the AQAP.
The mission to free the two hostages, according to an anonymous US defense official started late Friday in Dafaar village when about 40 US commandos arrived on tilt-rotor CV-22 Ospreys, aircraft capable of vertical takeoff but flying as a regular plane. The commandos then approached the compound on foot.
Being less than 100 meters from the premises, one US official claims, commandos lost the element of surprise, possibly because of a dog barking.
"There is nothing to indicate what or how these guys knew the team was about to enter the compound," one US official told Reuters.
Once inside the compound, a fierce gunfight erupted. The enemy was “firing erratically and then our guys returned fire," another US official told the agency. He added that no Yemenis special forces were involved in the raid.
In the heat of the battle, which lasted no more than 10 minutes, one of the militants inside the compound exited through the back door. The gunfire was heard. US officials say that is when Somers and Korkie are believed to have been fatally wounded. As the US forces entered the compound, they discovered the hostages bleeding due to gunshot wounds.
During the mission US commandos shot and killed about 10 people, including some civilians and an AQAP guard, Ali al-Ahmadi, Chief of Yemen National Security Bureau told the news agency. The Pentagon earlier stated it was unaware of any civilian casualties.
The rescue mission was compiled in a very short time-frame, Reuters states citing its sources in the military, law enforcement and the intelligence community.
"We were working against a timeline, which was Al-Qaeda's public threat to execute Luke Somers within 72 hours," one senior administration official said. "It was our assessment that that clock would run out on Saturday."
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On Thursday evening, Pentagon drafted a plan for the mission which was reviewed and signed off on Friday by the outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and then by President Barack Obama.
According to US officials the mission was given a green light by the Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
In the meantime, President Barack Obama condemned the “barbaric murder" of the two men.
"The United States strongly condemns the barbaric murder of Luke Somers at the hands of al Qaeda terrorists during a rescue operation," Obama said in a statement. "I offer my deepest condolences to Luke's family and to his loved ones."
"The callous disregard for Luke's life is more proof of the depths of AQAP's depravity, and further reason why the world must never cease in seeking to defeat their evil ideology," Obama added.
Saturday's US special forces raid was the third failed rescue attempt of an American hostage in five months. It is also the second failed one to retrieve American photojournalist Somers. On November 25, a US mission was unsuccessful because Somers had been moved before US commandos arrived to rescue him. The other one a failed attempt to rescue American journalist James Foley in July.