In their failed attempt to rescue an American hostage in Yemen, U.S. commandos were spotted by an Al Qaeda militant who came outside apparently to relieve himself, ABC News reported, citing a counter-terrorism official with knowledge of the operation.
Luke Somers, a photojournalist, along with a South African teacher, were killed during the raid that President Barack Obama said he ordered over an "imminent danger" to the Somers.
The special operations team infiltrated first by Osprey aircraft and then on foot, a defense official told ABC News. But the 40-man team was hit by gunfire in the difficult, mountainous terrain, ABC News added, citing an administration official.
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The counter-terrorism official who spoke to ABC News said the commandos were spotted as they were setting up a perimeter when one of the al Qaeda fighters came outside, apparently to relieve himself. The official said Somers was found at a site where the U.S. suspects hostages have been held previously.
"There is zero possibility that the hostages were victims of cross fire," a military official said. "This was an execution."
No American warfighters were injured in the raid, but six AQAP fighters were killed, officials said.
The entire operation took 30 minutes, according to the administration official. Yemen approved and cooperated with the operation, but Yemeni forces weren't involved in the attempted rescue.
The Wall Street Journal, citing U.S. officials briefed on the operation, reported that a noise, perhaps a dog bark, alerted Al Qaeda to the presence of the commandos.
An aid group helping negotiate the release of South African Pierre Korkie said he was to be freed Sunday and his wife was told only that morning: "The wait is almost over."
The operation began before dawn in Yemen's southern Shabwa province, a stronghold of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the country's local branch of the terror group. U.S. drone struck first the Wadi Abdan area first, followed by strafing runs by jets and Yemeni ground forces moving in, a Yemeni security official said. Helicopters also flew in more forces to raid the house where the two men were held, he said.
U.S. forces saw a militant briefly enter a building on the compound, the Associated Press reported, adding that U.S. officials believe it was then that Somers and Korkie were shot. Both men were found alive in the building but gravely wounded, the AP reported.
Both Somers and Korkie "were murdered by the AQAP terrorists during the course of the operation," U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said from Kabul, Afghanistan.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
This story has been updated.
(H/T: Drudge Report)