Yemen: al-Qaeda retaliates to botched US rescue mission

A military air base was hit after US Special Forces botched a rescue attempt in Yemen last week.

FILE: The building that South African teacher Pierre Korkie and US photojournalist Luke Somers were killed in during a failed attempt by US Special Forces to free Somers from al-Qaeda militants. Picture: AFP.

YEMEN - An air base in Yemen has been struck in retaliation to the abortive attempt by United States Special Forces to rescue an American hostage and resulted in the death of South African teacher Pierre Korkie.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which Washington considers to be the most dangerous affiliate of the jihadist network, has claimed responsibility.

The base houses US and European advisors providing drones and logistical support to Yemen in its battle against al-Qaeda.

Witnesses say they saw bodies being taken to a nearby hospital after the powerful blast.

No official casualty list has been released.

Al-Qaeda says it fired six missiles into the American section of the base.

The jihadis killed Korkie and US photo journalist Luke Somers when US Special Forces tried to rescue Somers on Saturday last week.


Al-Qaeda blamed the US for the death of Korkie and Somers, an official of the militant group said, arguing Washington had "foolishly" chosen armed force over negotiation.

US President Barack Obama "and his government knew the fairness of our demands, and they could have at least negotiated with us about them, or been sincere in this matter", Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi said in a video published on Thursday by the SITE Intelligence group, which monitors Islamist militants.

"Despite our warning to him not to act foolishly ... he chose a military solution, which failed before and failed once again."

Somers, 33, and Korkie, 56, were shot by their kidnappers during the raid on Saturday in the arid Wadi Abadan district of Shabwa, one of al-Qaeda's most formidable strongholds, US officials said.

Residents said a woman, a 10-year-old boy and a local al-Qaeda leader were among at least 11 people also killed in the shootout.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is seen by Washington as one of the global militant group's most dangerous branches.

The US has been bombing the group by unmanned aerial drones for years and works with Yemen's government to prevent the fighters from spreading beyond their remote hideaways in the country's south and east.

The rescue bid was the second attempt to release Somers in 10 days and followed an ultimatum by the group warning the US to meet the group's demands within three days.

In the video al-Ansi condemned the imprisonment of a prominent Egyptian cleric and female Pakistani neuroscientist on US terrorism charges, suggesting he sought their release in exchange for Somers.

Negotiations had been underway to release Korkie, Al-Ansi added, in part confirming an account by a South African charity group that was pursuing the talks on behalf of his family.

The US has said it was aware another foreign hostage was at the location with Somers, but did not know his identity or of the quiet efforts to free Korkie.

Obama stood by the raid, saying on Saturday the US would "spare no effort to use all of its military, intelligence and diplomatic capabilities to bring Americans home safely, wherever they are located".

Additional reporting by Reuters.