British-American Photographer Features in Al-Qaeda Hostage Video

British-American Photographer Features in Al-Qaeda Hostage Video

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a cadet group of Al-Qaeda that operates in Yemen and Saudi Arabia has threatened to kill British-born American citizen Luke Somers, who was kidnapped in Yemen in September 2013. Appearing in the video wearing Western style clothes against a backdrop of green foliage, he pleaded for help to “get me out of this situation”. 

Speaking to the camera Somers, who has had his head of long hair shorn off, said in a 35-second statement: “My name is Luke Somers. I’m 33 years old. I was born in England, but I carry American citizenship and have lived in America for most of my life.

“It’s now been well over a year since I’ve been kidnapped in Sana’a. 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”.

The video lacked the sophistication that has come to be associated with the films released by the Islamic State (ISIS), featuring the hostage John Cantlie and others who have since been executed. The Somers video is roughly cut two thirds of the way through, indicating there may have been multiple takes, or that dialogue had been removed by his captors. 

His plea came at the end of a film featuring the leader of AQAP, Sheikh Nasser al-Ansi who stuck to familiar Al-Qaeda territory of condemning American imperialism and drone strikes, reports The Times

The film itself may be seen as part of Al-Qaeda’s present re-branding exercise, which is attempting to stem the flow of recruits and money from the group, which was until recently the worlds most infamous terror group to new upstart the Islamic State. ISIS has been unafraid to use innovative recruiting campaigns on social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and received a propaganda boost after establishing a self-declared Caliphate. 

Al-Qaeda, which has long issued extremely long and comparatively intellectual edicts on the Islamic faith and the evils of the West soon fell behind the short and easy to digest messages distributed, which are often wrapped up in popular cultural references to appeal to young jihadists. The release of a new glossy recruiting magazine, Dabiq, is one such attempt to sway younger fighters to their cause. This imitation of the ISIS hostage youtube videos of past months may be another. 

This video is the first time that Luke Somers’ name has been revealed in the mainstream press since his capture, in line with the policy of many Western governments including the United Kingdom and United States to starve hostage takers of publicity by keeping the takings secret.