Published: Fri, March 03, 2017
Global | By Maureen Mccoy

Twenty US strikes target Yemen's al-Qaeda in one day

Twenty US strikes target Yemen's al-Qaeda in one day

USA jets and drones conducted more than 20 airstrikes against al-Qaida targets in Yemen on Thursday, roughly one month after US special operators carried out a raid in the same province that led to the death of a Navy SEAL, Pentagon officials said.

"Almost everything went wrong", a USA defense official told NBC News after the operation.

In his first nationally televised speech to Congress since taking office on January 20, Trump acknowledged in the audience the widow of U.S. Navy SEAL William "Ryan" Owens, who was killed in the operation.

The attack was in al-Saeed, an area of Shabwa province home to the al-Awaleq tribe, the extended clan of Anwar al-Awlaki, a militant cleric and US citizen killed in 2011 by a USA drone strike.

The airstrikes Thursday in areas under AQAP's control marked the first US combat action in Yemen's civil war since the January 29 raid and were coordinated with Yemen's nominal president, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, according to the Pentagon statement by Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a spokesman.

A US official said the mission had been long planned and though they were not the direct result of the January raid, intelligence gathered in the raid confirmed information about the targets.

"More than 20 strikes targeted AQAP militants, equipment and infrastructure in the Yemeni governorates of Abyan, Baida and Shabwa", Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said in a statement.

Successive US administrations have carried out a drone war against Al-Qaeda in Yemen since soon after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

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AQAP and the Islamic State group have exploited a power vacuum created by a conflict between the government and Houthi rebels, in order to expand their presence in Yemen, especially in the south and southeast. Owens' father, in a newspaper interview over the weekend, called for an investigation.

The White House has stood fast - on Tuesday, Trump featured Owens' widow, Carryn, during his address to a joint session of Congress and affirmed again that "Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies".

The nighttime raid on January 28 conducted by SEAL Team Six in rural southern Yemen was intended as an intelligence gathering mission targeting a known AQAP compound, officials said.

In the afternoon, another drone strike hit a vehicle in Wadea district of Abyan province, killing five more Qaeda suspects, a security official said.

There were no immediate details available on damages or casualties caused by the strikes.

They said they heard loud explosions early on Thursday morning in al-Maraqisha, a rugged mountainous area where al Qaeda militants took refuge past year after they were driven out of Yemeni cities they had captured earlier. An ongoing U.S. Central Command review has determined that some civilians were also killed, including possibly children.

"This was a mission that was started before I got here", Trump said.

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