Update: In contrast to previous media reports, no Americans were among the hostages rescued, according to the New York Times. Additionally, two dozen U.S. Special Operation commandos operated alongside their Yemeni counterparts during the raid.
Yemeni special forces rescued eight hostages, including one American military advisor, during a predawn raid on Tuesday near the al-Anad air base in southwest Yemen. The group’s kidnapping highlights the capacity of al-Qaeda linked militants in the area, even as international attention has turned towards other terrorist organizations.
A file photo of a Yemeni soldier. (Photo: Reuters)
Seven kidnappers were killed in the assault, according to the Yemen News Agency. Reports also suggest the U.S. provided logistical support for the operation. However, neither Washington nor Saana released details regarding how long the hostages were held for or the exact military status of the American rescued.
Kidnappers in Yemen commonly target Westerners to raise ransom for militant activities or to gain leverage in negotiations with the central government. In 2012, the U.S. military restarted on the ground training aimed in part at bolstering the country’s special forces for such counter-terrorism missions.
The United States and some European countries use al-Anad to launch drone strikes against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). As one of the most active terrorist branches in the region, AQAP planned high profile attacks against Western interests, including the U.S. ambassador. Drone strikes, begun under President Bush and continued under President Obama, targeted AQAP militants, but have also bred resentment among the local population for causing civilian casualties.