SANAA/ADEN - A woman, a 10-year-old boy and a local al Qaeda leader were among at least 11 people killed alongside two Western hostages when US-led forces fought Islamist militants in a failed rescue mission in Yemen, residents said on Sunday.
US special forces raided the village of Dafaar in Shabwa province, a militant stronghold in southern Yemen, shortly after midnight on Saturday, killing several members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
American journalist Luke Somers, 33, and South African teacher Pierre Korkie, 56, were shot and killed by their captors during the raid intended to free them, US officials said.
AQAP, formed in 2006 by the merger of the Yemeni and Saudi branches of the network, has for years been seen by Washington as one of the movement's most dangerous branches.
Western governments fear advances by Shi'ite Muslim Houthi fighters with links to Iran have bolstered support among Yemeni Sunnis for AQAP, which has established itself in parts of Yemen, including Shabwa where the raid took place.
However, since Islamic State in Syria and Iraq began distributing films of its militants beheading Western hostages, the focus on AQAP, which has traditionally used hostage-taking as a way to raise funds, had diminished until now.
At least two more hostages are being held by the group.
The Yemen-based group, loyal to the wider al Qaeda organisation founded by Osama bin Laden, has denounced Islamic State, but Western and Gulf sources say there may be operational connections between the two. "AQAP and Daesh (Islamic State) are essentially the same organisation but have different methods of execution and tactics," a senior Yemeni intelligence official said.