Yemen launched a concerted attack on an al Qaeda stronghold  on Monday, in a last ditch attempt to free three Western hostages, taken by the terrorist group last month, Reuters reported on Monday.
The foreigners - a Finnish couple and an Austrian man - all of whom were studying Arabic in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, were taken by tribesman and later sold to members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula , when they were transferred to the al-Bayda province in the South.
According to eyewitnesses speaking to Reuters, the army tanks moved towards the al-Manaseh stronghold in al-Bayda, where the hostages are thought to have been kept, at dawn.
"A few hours later, army forces started shelling. We could hear explosions," 'Abdullah' told Reuters by phone.
The move by the Yemeni authorities come as the UN Security Council delegation arrives in the troubled state  to try to push through reconcilliation talks between Northern and Southern Yemen.
Along with the problem of periodic kidnappings, mostly by tribesmen looking to make money from the ransom, Yemen's government also faces a serious lack of funds . The U.S. considers the Arabian state to be on the frontline of the fight against al Qaeda.