The family of South African teacher Pierre Korkie was expecting him to be released by al-Qaeda tomorrow after 18 months of captivity in Yemen, reports Sky News. Instead, he was killed today as US commandos tried to free fellow hostage Luke Somers, an American. "His passport was ready, everything was ready," an official with the charity group Gift of the Givers, which had been negotiating Korkie's release, tells the BBC. The charity had informed his wife, Yolande, earlier in the week that he'd be home for Christmas, but its president makes clear that he does not blame the US: "There is no bad feeling toward anyone."
The charity's account of Korkie's pending freedom has not been been verified by US officials, but if true he got caught up in tragic timing. President Obama authorized the rescue attempt this morning because US authorities feared Somers was about to be killed. Both men were brought from the compound alive but died later from gunshot wounds that US officials say came from al-Qaeda, not American troops. Obama offered his condolences to the Korkie family, saying the hostage was "murdered by these terrorists during the rescue operation," reports South Africa's Mail & Guardian. Both Pierre and Yolande Korkie were seized last year in Yemen, though Yolande was freed in January. (Click to read about how the rescue attempt went wrong.)