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White House defends deadly Yemen hostage mission – Part 1

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The fallout kept coming today from Saturday's failed U.S. commando raid to free two hostages in Yemen. American photographer Luke Somers and South African teacher Pierre Korkie were shot to death by their al-Qaida captors before commandos could reach them.

  • JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary:

    The president doesn't at all regret ordering this mission.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The White House defended the raid, with spokesman Josh Earnest saying American officials had not known about efforts to win the South African captive's release.

  • JOSH EARNEST:

    What I can tell you is that the United States had no information that there were private negotiations under way for the release of Mr. Korkie.

  • QUESTION:

    You didn't know there were negotiations in general for his release?

  • JOSH EARNEST:

    That is correct. That is the information that I have.

    That said, we obviously mourn the death of Mr. Korkie, in the same way that we mourn the death of Mr. Somers.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The Associated Press reported Yemen's government did know about the Korkie negotiations, and that U.S. officials were present during recent conversations about him.

    On Saturday, the head of the charity that employed Korkie, Gift of the Givers, said his release had been set for Sunday, one day after the raid. A ransom reportedly was being paid.

    IMTIAZ SOOLIMAN, Founder, Gift of the Givers: It was really shocking, especially since, last week, I told Yolande, which is Pierre's wife, that we will have Pierre home for Christmas.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Relatives of Luke Somers also criticized the U.S. raid, coming days after a previous rescue attempt came up empty.

  • LUKE SOMERS, Hostage:

    I'm certain that my life is in danger.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    U.S. officials said they had to try again, after al-Qaida in Yemen threatened to murder Somers, and showed him in this video released last week. They had set Saturday as a deadline.

    So, late Friday, operators from the Navy's SEAL Team Six flew from Djibouti across the Gulf of Aden to Shabwah province in Southern Yemen. Various reports said they hiked several miles, but they were spotted as they closed in, and a gun battle ensued, giving the militants time to shoot both hostages.

    Yesterday, outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel defended the planning that led to the raid.

    CHUCK HAGEL, Secretary of Defense: Our process is about as thorough as there can be. Is it imperfect? Yes. Is there risk? Yes. But we start with the fact that we have an American that's being held hostage and that American's life is in danger.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Over the summer, the U.S. also tried and failed to free American journalist James Foley, held by the Islamic State group in Syria. Foley and four other Western hostages were later beheaded by Islamic State members.

    The al Qaeda branch had no immediate response to the failed U.S. raid or the death of the hostages.

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