According to The Associated Press, al-Qaeda's branch in Yemen threatened a British-born US hostage, identified as Luke Somers, 33, who was kidnapped over a year ago, giving Washington three days to meet unspecified demands in a new video released Thursday (December 4).
This is the first time that Somers has been depicted in a video-clip, which was posted on the al-Qaeda Twitter account. The video comes weeks after an apparent unsuccessful attempt by US special forces to rescue Somers in a raid in the remote Yemeni desert.
The footage apparently seeks to mimic hostage videos released by al-Qaeda's rivals from IS (Islamic State), which has threatened--and later beheaded--several US and British hostages in the aftermath of a summer blitz that captured much of Iraq and Syria. The IS fighters have at times battled al-Qaeda and prompted defections among their rivals.
Somers was kidnapped in September 2013 from a street in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, where he had worked as a freelancer for The Yemen Times. Since his capture, Yemeni journalists have been holding sit-ins in Sana'a to press the government to seek his release.
Somers was likely among a group of hostages who were the objective of a joint rescue mission by US operation forces and Yemeni troops last month that freed eight captives in a remote area of dunes called Hagr al-Saiaar near the Saudi border in Hadramawt province.
At the time, a Yemeni official said the mission failed to liberate five other hostages. Among them were an American journalist and a Briton who were moved elsewhere by their al-Qaeda captors days before the raid. The American was not identified by name and Yemen did not officially confirm the participation of US commandos in the rescue mission--a rare instance of US forces intervening on the ground in Yemen.
COMMENT: In the 3-minute video, Somers appears somber and gives a brief statement in English, asking for help. The video was first reported by SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant sites.
"It's now been well over a year since I've been kidnapped in Sana'a," 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."
Before Somers' statement, the video shows local al-Qaeda commander Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi, reading in Arabic and speaking about alleged American "crimes against" the Muslim world.
Al-Ansi criticizes US-led airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) and President Barack Obama for his "latest foolish action," referring to the "failed operation" in Hadramawt. He says an "elite group of mujahedeen," or holy warriors, were killed in the US raid.
He also warned the US against more "stupidities," referring to future attempts to rescue hostages.
Al-Ansi gives the US three days to meet al-Qaeda's demands or "otherwise, the American hostage held by us will meet his inevitable fate," without elaborating or explicitly saying they would kill their captive. He doesn't specify the demands but says Washington is "aware" of them.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the Yemeni group is known, is considered by the US to be the world's most dangerous branch of the terror network and has been linked to several failed attacks on the US homeland.
Abduction of foreigners have been commonplace in impoverished Yemen, troubled both by al-Qaeda and the advance of Shiite rebels, but while kidnapping for ransom was common in the past, threatening a hostage's life appears to be a shift in the al-Qaeda branch's tactics.