Photojournalist and Wisconsin college graduate Luke Somers has been murdered by terrorists in Yemen during a failed, U.S.-led rescue attempt.
The 33-year-old, who was born in Britain but spent three years at Beloit College where he earned a degree in creative writing, had been held captive by Al-Qaida for the past 15 months, according to the Huffington Post.
The college was among those calling for safe return of Somers, who was working as a photographer for the Yemen Times when he was captured, after a video posted by Al-Qaida two days ago threatened his life, Gawker says.
The rescue mission was launched in response to this threat, but President Barack Obama announced this morning it had been unsuccessful, with Somers and another captive, from South Africa, murdered before rescuers could reach them.
"We remember Luke and his family, as well as the families of those Americans who are still being held captive overseas and those who have lost loved ones to the brutality of these and other terrorists," President Obama said. "We remain determined to do our utmost to bring them home, and to hold those who have done them harm accountable."
Speaking to the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel earlier this week, Beloit College English professor Shawn Gillen described Somers' plight as "heart-breaking" and spoke fondly of his former student.
He described him as sensitive and "incredibly bright", with dry humor, a talent for poetry and an engaging writing style.
The Washington Post reports that extremists had threatened to kill Somers in response to another rescue mission by U.S. commandos last week, which saw several other hostages rescued, but which "narrowly missed" Somers, military officials told the newspaper.