U.S. Special Forces conducted a mission on White House orders amid "compelling reasons" to believe Somers' life was in imminent danger, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement. Another hostage, South African Pierre Korkie, was also killed the operation, his aid group said.
President Barack Obama condemned the killing of British-born U.S. citizen Somers as "barbaric." Somers' sister, Lucy, told NBC News' partner ITV News and The Associated Press that the FBI had informed the family of the 33-year-old's death. They declined to be interviewed.
Friday's operation took place in Shabwa province, a Yemen interior ministry official told NBC News, adding that 10 militants were also killed.
Al Qaeda posted a video Thursday that showed Somers and a local militant commander threatening that the hostage would meet his fate in three days if the U.S. didn't meet the group's demands.
"The United States strongly condemns the barbaric murder of Luke Somers at the hands of al Qaeda terrorists during a rescue operation conducted by U.S. forces in Yemen in partnership with the Yemeni government," Obama said in his statement. "On behalf of the American people, I offer my deepest condolences to Luke's family and to his loved ones."
Obama added: "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."
Hagel's statement said: "Yesterday's mission is a reminder of America's unrelenting commitment to the safety of our fellow citizens - wherever they might be around the world. I commend the troops who undertook this dangerous mission. Their service and valor are an inspiration to all of us."
Disaster relief group Gift of the Givers said it had "received with sadness the news that Pierre [Korkie] was killed in an attempt by American Special Forces, in the early hours of this morning, to free hostages in Yemen." First published December 6th 2014, 12:02 am. Photo by NBCNEWS.COM. News by