Yemeni security forces have freed seven Yemeni hostages and a foreigner in a raid in which seven al-Qaeda kidnappers were also killed, the country’s supreme security committee said.
The committee did not disclose the nationality of the foreign hostage, but a Yemeni government source said he was a US military instructor who worked at al-Anad air base in Lahej province, about 60km north of the port city of Aden.
The source said the rescue mission took place near the base, but there was no immediate confirmation of this from the security committee. The US embassy in Sanaa declined to comment on the report.
Colonel Steven Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, later told the AP news agency that “there were no US personnel rescued” in the operation.
“We applaud the government of Yemen’s hostage rescue,” Warren said.
The committee said in a statement that one member of the Yemeni security forces was lightly wounded in the operation.
Fight against AQAP
Yemen, which borders the world’s top oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, is home to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), regarded by Washington as one of the most active branches of the network founded by Osama bin Laden.
The Pentagon said in 2012 that US had resumed on-the-ground military training aimed at bolstering Yemen’s fight against al-Qaeda following a suspension of such help during a period of intense political upheaval.
Kidnapping is common in Western-backed Yemen, where the country is battling an insurgency from rebels linked to al Qaeda, a southern separatist movement and sporadic conflicts with armed tribes.
Hostage-taking is sometimes carried out by fighters specifically targeting Westerners, but is also used as a tactic by tribesmen to resolve disputes with the government, and by opportunists hoping to sell hostages on to other groups.
Earlier this month, the United Nations said a water engineer for Sierra Leone working in Yemen had been freed more than a year after being seized by unidentified armed men.