Middle East

Yemen raid: Luke Somers' family says ransom offer made

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Media captionLuke Somers' stepmother, Penny Bearman: "One of the difficulties we've faced is learning there had been a ransom demand"

The stepmother of photojournalist Luke Somers, killed in a rescue bid in Yemen, has said there were secret negotiations for his release and an offer to pay a ransom.

Penny Bearman told the BBC the family had not known of the talks, which she said had taken place in April.

She did not say who was involved in the negotiations or who offered a ransom.

Mr Somers and fellow captive Pierre Korkie were shot by militants as US special forces tried to free them.

US officials said Mr Somers was about to be killed by the militants, who had released a video threatening to end his life.

The rescuers had not been not aware that South African teacher Mr Korkie was being held with Mr Somers - a British-born US citizen - officials later said.

"One of the difficulties we have faced over the past few days is learning from different sources that there had been a ransom demand," Ms Bearman said.

"Negotiations had happened in April - even a figure had been set - and somebody had offered to pay a ransom for Luke as well as for the other hostage."

Image copyright Gift of the Givers
Image caption South African teacher Pierre Korkie was seized in Yemen in May 2013

She criticised the policy of the US and British governments of not talking to militants.

"We feel that Luke's message was that negotiations should happen between countries and that the rescue attempt was not going to do anything for helping countries talk or negotiate," she said.

US troops had reportedly landed by helicopter around six miles (10 km) from the compound where the hostages were being held in Shabwa province on 6 December.

Supported by Yemeni forces they advanced to within 100m (320ft) of the site.

But they were spotted by militants and a gunfight broke out. One of the militants was seen entering the compound and US officials believe this was when the hostages were shot.

US 'resolve'

Both hostages were evacuated with serious injuries. Mr Korkie died on a helicopter while Mr Somers died while being treated on a US navy ship in the region.

After the rescue attempt, a charity working with Mr Korkie said mediators had been working on an "arrangement to take him out" and he was due to have been freed very soon.

It is understood that a payment had been made to enable Mr Korkie's release.

Anas Hamati, Yemen director of the charity Gift of the Givers said that the rescue attempt had "destroyed everything".

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama had no regrets about ordering the mission and that militants should note his resolve to do everything possible to rescue captured Americans.

Mr Somers, 33, was born in the UK but moved to the US with his mother when he was seven.

He visited the UK regularly to see his father, who was based in Deal, Kent.

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