By John Beck
Relatives of British-born American photojournalist Luke Somers, who is being held by al Qaeda in Yemen, have released a video appealing for his release.
The footage, which was originally published on Thursday by a Yemeni correspondent, came a day after al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a separate video threatening to kill Somers, 33, on Saturday if the US did not meet its unspecified demands.
“Please show mercy and give us an opportunity to see our Luke again,” Somers’s mother Paula says in the video. “He is all that we have.”
Somers had “only been trying to do good things for the Yemeni population,” says his brother Jordan, who also appears in the footage.
Somers, a journalist and photographer who was working for local and international outlets, was captured in September in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.
American authorities revealed on Thursday that they had conducted a November 25 operation with Yemeni troops in Hadramawt province in an attempt to free Somers. They succeeded in rescuing six Yemenis, an Ethiopian and a Saudi citizen being held by AQAP, but not Somers himself.
National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said in a statement that President Barack Obama had authorized the US Department of Defense to launch the mission “as soon as the US government had reliable intelligence and an operational plan.”
Meehan added that the details of the operation remained classified.
The AQAP video released on Wednesday lambasts the US for the “mujahideen” killed during the rescue.
Paula and Jordan Somers say in the appeal video that they’d had “no prior knowledge” of the mission and urged AQAP not to take revenge on Somers because of it.
“Luke is only a photojournalist and he is not responsible for any actions the US government has taken,” Jordan says.
Luke Somers was born in Britain to British parents but moved to the US as a child. A UK Foreign Office spokeswoman told VICE News that they weren’t aware of whether he had a UK passport. However, he would have automatically become a British citizen on January 1 1983 by virtue of his birthplace and remained so, unless he specifically renounced citizenship.
Paula Somers ends the video with a message to Luke. “We are doing everything possible to help you,” she says. Our hearts are with you, we miss you and we love you and all we want to do is see you again and have you safely in our arms all together again.”