U.S. Special Ops Rescue Yemeni Hostages from Al Qaeda militants

U.S. Special Ops Rescue Yemeni Hostages from Al Qaeda militants

Officials from Yemen and the United States announced Tuesday that a successful U.S.-led special forces operation freed eight hostages from the grasp of Al Qaeda terrorists, who were holding the captives for unknown reasons in eastern Yemen.

The mission was carried out by roughly two dozen United States elite special forces commandos, the New York Times reported. The American units were supported by Yemeni forces, who had previously been trained by U.S. military personnel. According to officials, the hostage rescue team was flown by helicopter to Hadhramaut Province, which is located near Yemen’s Saudi Arabia border. The team then traveled by foot to a mountainside cave, where they would square off against the Al Qaeda terrorists, who were found holding the hostages. The two sides engaged and the ensuing gun battle left seven Al Qaeda terrorists neutralized. One Yemeni soldier was lightly wounded, the Times reported. The hostages and special ops team were then quickly evacuated from the scene by a helicopter.

None of the hostages were of American origin. Six were Yemeni nationals, and the remaining two were an Ethiopian and a Saudi Arabian citizen. U.S. officials said they agreed to the mission after Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi wrote a plea for help. Hadi remains an ally of the United States, even as his country has devolved into a battleground for a fierce Sunni v. Shia war between Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Iran-backed Houthi insurgents.

Al-Qaida affiliated fighters in Yemen

AQAP Insurgents (The Guardian)

Followers of the Shi'ite Muslim Houthi group shout slogans as they attend an anti-government gathering in Arhab, north of Yemen's capital Sana'a, on August 17, 2014. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

Houthi Jihadis (Reuters)

Map of Yemen

Photo: BBC

Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John F. Kirby said of the mission: “I would tell you we continue to support Yemeni counterterrorism efforts and would refer you to them to talk to any operations.

Separately, Yemen’s oil industry came to a “complete halt” on Wednesday when militants blew up the country’s main pipeline. Additionally, the day saw clashes between Houthis and Sunni tribal forces in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, which resulted in the deaths of five.