Yemenis Say American Moved Days Before Special Ops Mission to Free Hostages in Yemen

The mission was conducted by the Navy's SEAL Team Six.

The U.S. official said the special operations team was inserted into the remote border region by helicopter then made its way to a cave where the hostages were rescued after a firefight that killed seven al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) fighters. The teams then evacuated the area by helicopter.

On Tuesday, the Yemeni government confirmed the raid in Hadhramaut Province but said only Yemeni counterterrorism forces had participated. The U.S. participation in the rescue was first reported by The New York Times.

However, an updated Yemeni military account of the raid said that according to one of the rescued hostages the American and four other hostages, including a South African and a Briton, had been moved from the cave two days before the raid.

The description of the raid was related by a Yemeni soldier, who participated in the raid, to the website September 26 that is routinely used by the Yemeni Defense Ministry to provide details about its military operations. The narrative by the counterterrorism soldier, who identified himself as Abu Marouf, provided details about how the raid was conducted, but made no mention of the participation of U.S. military forces.

Pentagon spokesmen have referred questions about the raid to the Yemeni government. “We continue to support Yemeni counterterrorism efforts and would refer you to them to talk to any operations,” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday.

This raid could be the first known instance where American forces have conducted a ground raid inside Yemen.

The Yemeni government has authorized the American military drone strikes, though it has painted them as airstrikes conducted by Yemen’s air force.

The violence in the capital has led to the occasional downsizing of U.S. embassy personnel in Sanaa.