Yemeni special forces rescued eight people, including one foreigner, from an al Qaeda-linked militant group, the country's security authorities said Tuesday.
Yemen's Supreme Security Committee said seven soldiers and one other man were freed in a US-backed special-ops raid on an al Qaida base in southern Lahji province. The Associated Press reported that seven of the kidnappers were killed in the raid. Unnamed security sources said the non-Yemeni was a military adviser at Lahji's al-Annad military airbase, the AP added.
All eight had previously been snatched in Lahji, in southwest Yemen near the port of Aden, according to a local security source cited by the BBC.
Both the BBC and Reuters initially reported that the foreigner was an American military instructor who had been working at the US military's al-Annad air base in Lahji. US officials told both AP and Defense One that no member of US military personnel was rescued in the operation, but those statements would not discount the possibility that an American military contractor was involved. The US has a small force in Yemen, which it is using to stage a long-running series of drone attacks against militants.
Kidnapping has become huge problem in Yemen, partly due to the rise of extremist groups such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is responsible for a number of high profile attacks, and is thought to be holding several foreign hostages.
The country has been in various degrees of disarray since the toppling of longtime autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012. Al Qaeda-led insurgents have since launched a string of deadly suicide attacks against security forces. The US has backed President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi's campaign against the extremists.
Shiite rebels known as Houthis overran the capital of Sana'a with little resistance from security forces in September and reached a peace deal with the political establishment stipulating the formation of a new government. Authorities have so far made little attempt to remove them from the capital.
As the rebels attempt to expand the areas under their control, they have clashed with local Sunni tribes and AQAP, which has promised to defend Sunnis from the Houthis. Dozens have been killed in the ensuing violence.
Recent events have raised fears that Yemen could become a failed state, and the international community has been pushing for a diplomatic solution to the fighting — an effort that is so far without success. Chaos in Yemen could extend beyond its borders, particularly into Saudi Arabia, whose Sunni leaders are anxiously monitoring the situation.
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