the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Statement by the President on the Death of Luke Somers

The United States strongly condemns the barbaric murder of Luke Somers at the hands of Al-Qa'ida terrorists during a rescue operation conducted by U.S. forces in Yemen in partnership with the Yemeni government.  On behalf of the American people, I offer my deepest condolences to Luke's family and to his loved ones.  I also offer my thoughts and prayers to the family of a non-U.S. citizen hostage who was also murdered by these terrorists during the rescue operation.  Their despair and sorrow at this time are beyond words.

It is my highest responsibility to do everything possible to protect American citizens.  As this and previous hostage rescue operations demonstrate, the United States will spare no effort to use all of its military, intelligence, and diplomatic capabilities to bring Americans home safely, wherever they are located.  And terrorists who seek to harm our citizens will feel the long arm of American justice.

Luke Somers was kidnapped fifteen months ago in Yemen and held hostage by Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).  Since his capture, the United States has been using every tool at our disposal to secure his release.  Earlier this week, a video released by his terrorist captors announced that Luke would be killed within 72 hours.  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.  I also authorized the rescue of any other hostages held in the same location as Luke.

Luke was a photojournalist who sought through his images to convey the lives of Yemenis to the outside world.  He came to Yemen 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.

As Commander-in-Chief, I am grateful to the U.S. forces who carried out this mission as well as the previous attempt to rescue Luke, and to the dedicated intelligence, law enforcement, and diplomatic professionals who supported their efforts.  I also deeply appreciate the support and assistance provided by President Hadi and the Yemeni government, and reiterate our strong commitment to combating the shared threat posed by AQAP.

We remember Luke and his family, as well as the families of those Americans who are still being held captive overseas and those who have lost loved ones to the brutality of these and other terrorists.  We remain determined to do our utmost to bring them home, and to hold those who have done them harm accountable.