(MASHABLE) -- An American photojournalist and a teacher from South Africa held by al-Qaeda's Yemen branch have been killed in a failed U.S. rescue attempt.
U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement he ordered the raid that saw Luke Somers and Pierre Korkie killed after al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula posted a video Thursday threatening to kill Somers.
"Earlier this week, a video released by his terrorist captors announced that Luke would be killed within 72 hours. Other information also indicated that Luke's life was in imminent danger," Obama wrote.
"Based on this assessment, and as soon as there was reliable intelligence and an operational plan, I authorized the rescue of any other hostages held in the same location as Luke."
The aid group Gift of Givers has identified the second hostage as South African teacher Pierre Korkie, who the group said was to be released Sunday. They said he was to be flown out of Yemen "under diplomatic cover, then to meet with family members in a 'safe' country, (and) fly to South Africa."
Korkie and his wife Yolande Korkie were taken hostage in May 2013 in Ta'iz, Yemen. Yolande was released in January 2014.
Yemen's national security chief, Maj. Gen. Ali al-Ahmadi, said the militants planned to kill Somers on Saturday.
"Al-Qaida promised to conduct the execution (of Somers) today so there was an attempt to save them but unfortunately they shot the hostage before or during the attack," al-Ahmadi said at a conference in Manama, Bahrain. "He was freed but unfortunately he was dead."
Lucy Somers told The Associated Press that she and her father learned of her 33-year-old brother's death from FBI agents.
"We ask that all of Luke's family members be allowed to mourn in peace," Lucy Somers said from London.
Saturday's rescue attempt came after a video, released Wednesday, in which al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula commander Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi threatened to kill Somers in three days if the U.S. didn't meet the group's demands. Somers, a British-born American citizen, was likely among a group of hostages whom American and Yemeni troops tried to rescue in November. Though eight hostages got away safely, Somers was not found.
The news of the failed rescue comes after a suspected U.S. drone strike in Yemen killed nine alleged al-Qaida militants early Saturday, a Yemeni security official said before news of Somers' death. The drone struck at dawn in Yemen's southern Shabwa province, hitting a suspected militant hideout, the official said.
Somers was a photojournalist who worked for the Yemen Times and as a freelance photographer. He first went to Yemen in 2010 and was abducted in September, 2013, on a street in Sanaa, Yemen's capital.
He was a well-recognized photojournalist in the capital, and other journalists held sit-ins in Sanaa asking the Yemeni government to intervene on Somers' behalf.
Somers' capture was not publicized, per his family's wishes, but he spoke in the video released on Wednesday, which was obtained by the SITE Intelligence Group. In it, he makes a brief plea for his life.
"It's now been well over a year since I've been kidnapped in Sanaa," Somers said. "Basically, I'm looking for any help that can get me out of this situation. I'm certain that my life is in danger. So as I sit here now, I ask if anything can be done, please, let it be done. Thank you very much."
His mother and brother also uploaded a video to YouTube on Thursday in which they asked for Somers to be safely released.
Yemen has seen a recent uptick in kidnappings of foreigners, and the Yemeni population has become increasingly outraged by U.S. drone strikes in the country.
Somers' death follows a string of killings of American and British citizens by a group known as the Islamic State, which controls swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria. ISIS and AQAP are at odds, but both groups have now recently used hostage videos to make demands.