Obama says Somers' life was in imminent danger

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Obama says Somers' life was in imminent danger
In this Monday, Feb. 11, 2013 photo, Luke Somers, 33, an American photojournalist who was kidnapped over a year ago by al-Qaida, poses for a picture during a parade marking the second anniversary of the revolution in Sanaa, Yemen. Al-Qaida's branch in Yemen threatened an American hostage kidnapped over a year ago, giving Washington three days to meet unspecified demands in a new video released Thursday. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
This image made from video posted online by militants on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows Luke Somers, an American photojournalist born in Britain and held hostage by al-Qaida's affiliate in Yemen. The Pentagon says a hostage rescue mission last month in Yemen failed to liberate American Somers because he was not present at the targeted location. (AP Photo/Militant Video)
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is greeted by Gen. John F. Campbell (R) after arriving on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2013 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Speaking in Afghanistan Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, Secretary Hagel said American photojournalist Luke Somers "and a second non-U.S. citizen hostage were murdered" by al-Qaida militants during a failed U.S. rescue attempt. (AP Photo/Mark Wilson, Pool) POOL PHOTO
In this Friday, Dec. 5, 2014 photo, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel greets two members of the US Air Force before boarding his aircraft to departing on an overseas trip at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. Speaking in Afghanistan Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, Secretary Hagel said American photojournalist Luke Somers "and a second non-U.S. citizen hostage were murdered" by al-Qaida militants during a failed U.S. rescue attempt. (AP Photo/Mark Wilson, Pool) POOL PHOTO
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is greeted after arriving on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2013 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Speaking in Afghanistan Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, Secretary Hagel said American photojournalist Luke Somers "and a second non-U.S. citizen hostage were murdered" by al-Qaida militants during a failed U.S. rescue attempt. (AP Photo/Mark Wilson, Pool) POOL PHOTO
In this Sunday, July, 7, 2013, Luke Somers, 33, an American photojournalist who was kidnapped over a year ago by al-Qaida poses for a picture in Sanaa, Yemen. Somers and a South African teacher held by al-Qaida militants in Yemen were killed Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014 during a U.S.-led rescue attempt, a raid President Barack Obama said he ordered over an "imminent danger" to the reporter. (AP Photo/Jaber Ahmad Ghrab)
In this Saturday, July, 6, 2013, Luke Somers, 33, an American photojournalist who was kidnapped over a year ago by al-Qaida, uses a camera during the National Dialogue Conference in Sanaa, Yemen. Somers and a South African teacher held by al-Qaida militants in Yemen were killed Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014 during a U.S.-led rescue attempt, a raid President Barack Obama said he ordered over an "imminent danger" to the reporter. (AP Photo/Jaber Ahmad Ghrab)
Yemeni soldiers walks outside the Yemeni Defense Ministry in Sanaa on December 6, 2014 after American journalist Luke Somers and a South African hostage were killed during a failed attempt by US special forces to free them from Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen. President Barack Obama condemned the 'barbaric murder' of Somers, saying he had authorised the joint rescue operation because the life of the 33-year-old photojournalist was believed to be 'in imminent danger'. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAIS (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama said Saturday he authorized the attempt to rescue American Luke Somers in Yemen because the U.S. had information that the photojournalist's life was in imminent danger.

Shortly before the White House statement, Yemen's national security chief said militants had planned to kill Somers on Saturday. On Thursday, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula posted a video online threatening to kill Somers.

Authorities said Somers, who was kidnapped in September 2013, and a South African teacher, Pierre Korkie, died in the rescue operation that Obama said was conducted by U.S. forces in partnership with Yemen's government.

The president said he "strongly condemns the barbaric murder of Luke Somers at the hands of al-Qaida terrorists" and reaffirmed that the U.S. "will spare no effort to use all its military, intelligence and diplomatic capabilities to bring Americans home safely, wherever they are located."

Obama said terrorists "who seek to harm our citizens will feel the long arm of American justice."

A mysterious U.S. raid last month had tried to rescue Somers but he was not at the site, the Pentagon's spokesman acknowledged Thursday.

American Hostage Luke Somers Killed in Failed Rescue Mission

Obama cited the captors' video threatening to kill Somers within 72 hours and said "other information also indicated that Luke's life was in imminent danger."

"Based on this assessment, and as soon as there was reliable intelligence and an operational plan, I authorized a rescue attempt yesterday," Obama said in the White House statement.

Secretary of State John Kerry also cited "a compelling indication that Luke's life was in immediate danger" and said "we recommended that the president authorize an attempt to rescue Luke."

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said during a news conference in Afghanistan that the rescue operation was "extremely well executed," and was complicated and risky.

Vice President Joe Biden said the U.S. "will be relentless in our efforts to bring to justice" those responsible for a "despicable crime."

Obama said Somers wanted to use his photographic images to convey the lives of Yemenis to outsiders, and had come to the country "in peace and was held against his will and threatened by a despicable terrorist organization. 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."

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