WASHINGTON — The Pentagon says a hostage rescue mission last month in Yemen failed to liberate American Luke Somers because he was not present at the targeted location.
The Pentagon press secretary, Rear Adm. John Kirby, said in a brief written statement Thursday that the U.S. government was acknowledging the attempted rescue of the 33-year-old Somers, the only American among the roughly dozen hostages held by Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, a Yemen-based al-Qaida offshoot.
Kirby said the Pentagon wanted to “provide accurate information” in light of the fact that the rescue attempt has been widely reported. Eight hostages were rescued, as has been reported previously.
A Yemeni official said an American journalist and a Briton were moved before the raid.
Kirby said details about the mission remain classified.
White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said the U.S. is aware of a video showing Somers. She said President Barack Obama authorized a rescue operation last month to free Somers and other hostages but “regrettably, Luke was not present.”
Meehan said the mission was coordinated with the Yemeni government and undertaken by U.S. and Yemeni forces.
“The overriding concern for Mr. Somers’ safety and the safety of the U.S. forces who undertake these missions made it imperative that we not disclose information related to Mr. Somers’ captivity and the attempted rescue,” Meehan said, adding that the mission was being disclosed now because of the video released Thursday.
Meehan said the White House’s “thoughts remain with the Somers family, and with the families and loved ones of every other U.S. citizen being held hostage overseas.”