November 25, 2014 / 4:18 AM / 3 years ago

Yemeni forces free eight al Qaeda hostages; U.S. says no Americans

2 Min Read

SANAA (Reuters) - Yemeni security forces freed eight hostages including six Yemenis, a Saudi and an Ethiopian, in a raid in which seven al Qaeda kidnappers were also killed, the country's supreme security committee said.

The committee said in a statement a member of the Yemeni security forces was lightly wounded in the operation in Hajr as-Say'ar district in the eastern province of Hadramout.

An earlier statement by the committee had said seven of the hostages were Yemenis and one was a foreigner. A Yemeni government source said at the time the foreigner was a U.S. military instructor, but a U.S. defence official denied that report.

Yemen, which borders the world's top oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, is home to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, regarded by Washington as one of the most active branches of the network founded by Osama bin Laden.

The Pentagon said in 2012 the United States 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, which is battling an insurgency from Islamists linked to al Qaeda, a southern separatist movement and sporadic conflicts with armed tribes.

Hostage-taking of Westerners is sometimes carried out by political militants 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 from Sierra Leone working in Yemen had been freed more than a year after being seized by unidentified armed men.

Additional reporting by Phil Stewart in Washington; Writing by Yara Bayoumy and Sami Aboudi; Editing by William Maclean and Andrew Roche

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