The New York Times reports: In a predawn raid on Tuesday, United States Special Operations commandos and Yemeni troops rescued eight hostages being held in a cave in a remote part of eastern Yemen by Al Qaeda’s affiliate there, officials from both countries said.
The freed captives were six Yemeni citizens, a Saudi and an Ethiopian, who were unharmed, Yemeni officials said in a statement. Earlier reports that an American hostage was freed were incorrect, according to Yemeni and American officials.
About two dozen United States commandos, joined by a small number of American-trained Yemeni counterterrorism troops flew secretly by helicopter to a location in Hadhramaut Province near the Saudi border, according to American and Yemeni officials. The commandos then hiked some distance in the dark to a mountainside cave, where they surprised the militants holding the captives.
An ensuing shootout left seven of the Qaeda militants dead, the officials said. The hostages were then evacuated in helicopters.
The rare and risky dash into Qaeda-infested territory was organized fairly quickly, within two weeks of a request from President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi of Yemen to help rescue the captives, one American official said.
The operation appeared to be at least partly an attempt to bolster the stature of Mr. Hadi, a committed but wobbling United States ally whose authority was badly undermined when a rebel group suddenly seized control of Yemen’s capital in September.
In an apparent effort to play down the leading American role in the clandestine operation, the Pentagon referred questions about what had happened to the Yemeni government. [Continue reading…]