A British-born U.S. photojournalist and a South African aid worker held hostage in Yemen by al Qaeda were 'murdered' in a failed rescue attempt.
American citizen Luke Somers had been held hostage since September 2013 in Yemen's capital Sana'a having moved to the country two years earlier.
The 33-year-old was reportedly shot by his captors as US commandos carried out a dramatic rescue bid in the southern Shabwa province late on Friday night - the second attempted extraction by special forces in as many months.
Another hostage, South African aid worker Pierre Korkie, was also killed during the operation - a day before he was due to be released.
Outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel confirmed his death this morning during a trip to Afghanistan.
During a press conference he announced that 1,000 more US troops than expected will be stationed in the country next year following a spike in Taliban attacks.
Mr Somers was badly wounded when commandos found him and he died from his injuries by the time he had been flown to a naval ship.
Mr Somers' sister Lucy Somers told Associated Press that she learned of her brother's death from FBI agents at 5am this morning. 'We ask that all of Luke's family members be allowed to mourn in peace,' she said from London.
An Osprey aircraft took a team of U.S. Navy SEALS to the location, which was close to the site where a previous rescue mission had taken place, officials told CNN.
A gun fight is understood to have unfolded before the badly injured hostages were taken away on the aircraft, the report says.
Mr Somers was kidnapped in September 2013 as he left a supermarket in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, said Fakhri al-Arashi, chief editor of the National Yemen
The hostage worked at the paper as a copy editor and a freelance photographer during the 2011 uprising in Yemen.
The U.S. considers Yemen's al-Qaeda branch to be the world's most dangerous arm of the group as it has been linked to several failed attacks on the U.S. homeland.
US president Barack Obama described Mr Somers' murder as 'barbaric' in a statement this morning.
'On behalf of the American people, I offer my deepest condolences to Luke's family and to his loved ones,' he said in a statement.
'As this and previous hostage rescue operations demonstrate, the United States will spare no effort to use all of its military, intelligence and diplomatic capabilities to bring Americans home safely, wherever they are located.
'And terrorists who seek to harm our citizens will feel the long arm of American justice,' he said.
President Obama said he authorised the raid on Friday to rescue Somers and other hostages held in the same location. He said the United States had used every tool at its disposal to secure Somers' release since his capture 15 months ago.
He also thanked the Yemen government for its support. It is understood that the U.S. personnel who carried out the raid are safe.