Open main menu

2014 hostage rescue operations in Yemen

The 2014 hostage rescue operations in Yemen were missions to rescue hostages held by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen. The first attempt on 26 November 2014 rescued 8 hostages, but five hostages, including the American journalist Luke Somers, were moved by AQAP to another location prior to the raid. The second attempt by U.S. Navy SEALs once again attempted to rescue the hostages, but Luke Somers and South African teacher Pierre Korkie were killed by AQAP during the raid in Shabwah Governorate of Yemen. Although the majority of hostages had been rescued, the operation was still seen as a failure in the West.[citation needed] The media particularly criticised the incapability of American forces to rescue Somers.[citation needed]

2014 hostage rescue operations in Yemen
Part of Yemeni Crisis (2011–present)
Hagel Press Conference December 6 2014.jpg
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel at a rescue mission press conference.[1]
DateFirst attempt: 26 November 2014 (2014-11-26)[2]
Second attempt: 6 December 2014 (2014-12-06)

First attempt

  • Mission successful
  • Eight hostages freed
  • Somers and four other hostages not found at the first location

Second attempt

  • Mission failed
  • Two hostages, including Somers, killed

First raid only:

Both raids:
 United States
al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula
Units involved

United States U.S. Navy SEALs

Yemen Yemeni Armed Forces



 United States

Casualties and losses
1 Yemeni soldier wounded[4]
1 American civilian killed
13 fighters killed
(7 in first raid, 6 in second raid)
1 South African civilian killed
8 Yemeni civilians killed[5]


First raid and aftermathEdit

On 26 November 2014, a reinforced troop of U.S. Navy SEALs from DEVGRU supported by US-trained Yemeni special forces launched nighttime hostage rescue mission on a small number of caves in Hadhramaut Governorate. They landed at an off-set helicopter landing zone several kilometres away and patrolled on foot to the target area. In their assault on the cave, they killed 7 AQAP terrorists with one Yemeni SOF operator minorly wounded.[6] 8 hostages, none American, were freed, but Luke Somers and four others had been moved to another location by AQAP prior to the raid.[2][3][7] The nationalities of the eight hostages rescued were six Yemenis, one Saudi, and one Ethiopian or Nigerian. The SEALs conducted SSE and MH-60 helicopters flown by Nightstalkers extracted them.[8][9]

On 4 December 2014, AQAP threatened to execute Somers within three days if the US government failed to meet unspecified demands.[10][11] AQAP also said that Somers would be killed if another attempt to rescue the hostages was launched.[12]

Second raidEdit

On 6 December 2014, after time sensitive intelligence indicated that an American hostage would be immediately executed by AQAP, 40 SEALs from DEVGRU used V-22 Ospreys to land 10 km from the compound in the Abadan Valley, where Somers and Korkie were kept at about 1 a.m. local time, according to a senior defense official. An AQAP fighter spotted them when the SEALs were less than 100 yards from the objective[13] whilst relieving himself outside, a counter-terrorism official with knowledge of the operation told ABC News, beginning a firefight that lasted about 10 minutes.[14] According to CBS News, dog barking could have alerted the hostage takers of the operation.[15]

Both the American and South African hostage were immediately shot whilst, the DEVGRU assault team breached into the compound. The SEALs killed 6 AQAP terrorists[13] When the American troops finally entered the building where Somers and Korkie were kept, they found both men alive, but gravely wounded.

Whilst a JSOC medical unit who had inserted with DEVGRU began stabilising the wounded hostages whilst the SEALs secured the area for their extraction.[13] The US forces pulled Somers and Korkie onto the Ospreys and medical teams began performing surgery in midair. Korkie died during the flight and Somers died after the Ospreys landed on the USS Makin Island.[10]

The entire operation took 30 minutes. Six AQAP fighters were killed, US officials said. No American troops were killed or injured in the raid.

A video posted on a Jihadi website showed the fire fight between the Navy SEALs and AQAP fighters.[16]


Information "indicated that Luke's life was in imminent danger," said US President Barack Obama. "Based on this assessment, and as soon as there was reliable intelligence and an operational plan, I authorized a rescue attempt." He condemned the "barbaric murder" of Somers. "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," Obama said in a statement.[11][17][18]

At the time of the raid, US special operations forces were unaware of the identity of the second hostage, Korkie. Korkie's release was imminent and had been negotiated by the South African organization Gift of the Givers. The organization's leader Dr. I. I. Sooliman said that the failed rescue had "destroyed everything".[19]

In a statement released on 8 December 2014, Somers family said they did not give the green light for the rescue operation and the ordeal could have been solved with more dialogue and less fighting.[20]

See alsoEdit

  • Captive, documentary series in which the Pierre Korkie hostage situation was featured.


  1. ^ "American, South African hostages killed in Yemen". The Seattle Times.
  2. ^ a b "US troops played key role in Yemen rescue mission". AOL. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  3. ^ a b Barbara Starr; Jim Sciutto; Ray Sanchez (6 December 2014). "Hagel: Al Qaeda kills American hostage during U.S. raid -". CNN.
  4. ^
  5. ^ NY Times, 2 Hostages Killed in Yemen as U.S. Rescue Effort Fails, By KAREEM FAHIM and ERIC SCHMITTDEC. 6, 2014, "In the village where the rescue attempt took place, in the southern province of Shabwah, a tribal leader, Tarek al-Daghari al-Awlaki, said the American commandos had raided four houses, killing at least two militants but also eight civilians."
  6. ^ Neville, Leigh, Special Forces in the War on Terror (General Military), Osprey Publishing, 2015 ISBN 978-1472807908, p.302
  7. ^ "US troops played key role in Yemen rescue mission".
  8. ^ ABC News. "Yemenis Say American Moved Days Before Special Ops Mission to Free Hostages". ABC News.
  9. ^ Neville, Leigh, Special Forces in the War on Terror (General Military), Osprey Publishing, 2015 ISBN 978-1472807908, p.303
  10. ^ a b "US forces raid al-Qaida hideout in Yemen; hostages reported killed". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  11. ^ a b "Barack Obama condemns 'barbaric murder' of Luke Somers". The Telegraph. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  12. ^ Julian E. Barnes; Maria Abi-Habib (6 December 2014). "American Hostage Luke Somers Killed in Rescue Attempt". WSJ. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  13. ^ a b c Neville, Leigh, Special Forces in the War on Terror (General Military), Osprey Publishing, 2015 ISBN 978-1472807908, p.304
  14. ^ "How Navy SEALs Tried Rescuing al Qaeda Hostage Luke Somers". ABC news. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  15. ^ CBS News. "Inside the unsuccessful rescue mission of Luke Somers". Dailymotion. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  16. ^ CBS News. "Inside the unsuccessful rescue mission of Luke Somers". Dailymotion.
  17. ^ "American Hostage Luke Somers Killed in Rescue Attempt". The Atlantic. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  18. ^ "US hostage Luke Somers dies after rescue bid". BBC News. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  19. ^ "Yemen raid: US 'unaware' hostage Korkie was with Somers". BBC News. 7 December 2014.
  20. ^ "عائلة الرهينة الأمريكي المقتول باليمن تقول إنها لم توقع على محاولة إنقاذ ابنها". CNN Arabic. Retrieved 26 March 2015.