- Militants were seen moving hostages "chained and covered with blankets" into pickups
- They were driven to a cave, a website associated with Yemen's Defense Ministry says
- The mission, launched 4 miles from the cave, killed all 7 kidnappers, Yemen says
- But former hostages say five other captives were moved before rescuers arrived
A daring raid by U.S. and Yemeni forces into an al Qaeda stronghold in Yemen freed eight hostages, but not before kidnappers stole away with some Westerners, including an American.
The raid took place Monday, according to an American official and information posted on a Yemini website associated with the country's Defense Ministry.
The mission was planned after al Qaeda militants were seen transferring hostages "chained and covered with blankets" into pickups that were driven to a cave about 68 miles (109 kilometers) from Hajir al-Saiyer, according to the website.
The intelligence included that there were foreigners among the hostages, so "a plan was established in order to raid the cave," according to the Yemeni government account of the operation. The details were attributed to a Yemeni special forces member who was on the raid.
The troops, equipped with advanced weapons, including night vision equipment, launched the mission about 4 miles from the cave, according to the Yemeni government.
The kidnappers were found about 100 yards from the cave, and "clashes erupted" soon, according to the account provided by the special forces member. All seven kidnappers were killed.
The special forces troops found eight hostages chained up. They told the rescue team that two days earlier, kidnappers had moved five others, including an American, a Briton, a South African and a Yemeni. The fifth was believed to be a Turkish citizen.
While the Yemeni version does not mention U.S. involvement, an American official confirmed to CNN that U.S. Special Forces were part of the raid team. CNN learned of the American involvement this week but, at the request of the government, did not report the information as there was a search for the American hostage.