Sanaa: US-backed Yemeni forces rescued an American soldier Tuesday just hours after his capture in an Al-Qaeda attack on an air base in the violence-wracked country, military officials said.
The American was seized along with seven Yemeni soldiers in the militant assault on Al-Anad base in the southern province of Lahij, an official said.
Special forces launched a dawn raid to free the hostages, killing seven kidnappers. A member of the security forces was reported to have been lightly wounded during the rescue.
"The seven assailants have been killed by Yemeni forces, supported by American forces," a military official told AFP without elaborating on the US role.
The militants captured seven soldiers on guard during the night before advancing into the base and seizing the US soldier, an official said.
The American embassy in Sanaa declined to comment on Tuesday.
Yemen is a key US ally in the fight against Al-Qaeda, allowing Washington to conduct a longstanding drone war against the group on its territory.
Yemeni officials acknowledge that Washington has deployed personnel at Al-Anad base to gather intelligence for the drone strikes.
A military official said that "dozens of American military personnel" are based in Al-Anad, mainly instructors involved in training anti-terror forces.
Al-Qaeda has exploited instability in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country since a 2011 uprising overthrew longtime president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Hundreds of foreigners have been kidnapped over past years in Yemen, mostly by disgruntled tribesmen trying to pressure local authorities. Almost all were freed unharmed, mostly in exchange for ransom or government concessions.
On another front, Yemen`s interior ministry said overnight that the coast guard was placed on alert in several provinces following information that "terrorist groups belonging to Somalia`s (Al-Qaeda-affiliated) Shebab are planning to enter Yemen to carry out terrorist attacks".
The ministry ordered "increased deployment of security patrols along Yemen`s coast in coordination with naval forces... to arrest any elements and foil any suspected movement".
It was unclear if the warning was linked to the attack in Lahij.Tens of thousands of Somali refugees cross the Gulf of Aden every year to reach Yemen.
But African and Yemeni officials have warned that Shebab fighters were also infiltrating among refugees entering the country, which is home to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Washington calls AQAP the deadliest franchise in the global extremist network.
Several Al-Qaeda militants have been killed in attacks by unmanned drones.
The United States is the only country operating drones over Yemen, but US officials rarely confirm individual strikes.
The militants remain active in southern and eastern regions of Yemen despite several military campaigns by government forces.
Al-Qaeda militants have closed ranks with Sunni tribesmen in southern Yemen to halt the advance of Shiite Huthi militias who seized Sanaa in September unopposed, and who have since extended their control to coastal areas and regions south of the capital.