Working with Yemeni troops, some two dozen US commandos quietly rescued eight hostages in Yemen early yesterday, the New York Times reports. The hostages, including six Yemenis, a Saudi, and an Ethiopian, were being held in a cave by al-Qaeda's affiliate in the country. Commandos reached the eastern region by helicopter before heading to the cave on foot under cover of darkness. They surprised the militants, seven of whom died in a gun battle before helicopters flew the hostages to safety.
Though the US took the lead in the effort, it has referred media questions to the Yemeni government, the Times notes; the raid was likely in part aimed at helping US ally President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi recover his image following a takeover of the capital, Sanaa, by a Houthi rebel group. The captives included a university teacher who, according to a journalist, the militants thought "would help them making bombs." Others held by the militant group included a Saudi diplomat, a South African teacher, and an Iranian embassy official, the BBC reports; it's not clear whether the Saudi rescued in the raid was the diplomat Abdullah al-Khalidi. (Read more Yemen stories.)