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Officials who green-lighted the botched raid to free American hostage Luke Somers in Yemen knew there was another captive at the hideout but did not know it was a South African who reportedly was about to be released, sources told NBC News on Monday. Somers and the South African, Pierre Korkie, were both killed in Saturday's U.S.-led operation when militants from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula shot them as commandos closed in.
There was no coordination between the U.S. military and the South African humanitarian relief group, Gift of the Givers, that was in talks with the militants about Korkie because both groups were intent on "operational security" to prevent premature leaks. Imtiaz Sooliman, founder of Gift of the Givers, has said Korkie was supposed to be released Sunday under a deal struck with al Qaeda. But the U.S. ambassador in South Africa told the Associated Press that American officials, and possibly even the South African government, were "unaware of ongoing negotiations that had any resolution."
After the U.S. tried and failed to rescue Somers days earlier, the militants had threatened to kill the English teacher and freelance photojournalist over the weekend. Commandos were less than 100 yards from the Al Qaeda compound when the captors opened fire. One of the hostage-takers then ran into the building where Somers and Korkie were then found mortally wounded. Although senior administration officials said a barking dog may have alerted the militants to the commands' arrival, the Pentagon officials said that was speculation.
Somers' body is at the U.S. military base at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. It is likely to be flown to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware tomorrow.
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