US drone strike kills 4 AQAP fighters
US drones struck yet again in the Yemeni province of Al Baydah, according to a report from the country. The strike is the fourth in Yemen in the past week.
Yemeni security officials have told the Yemen Post that an unmanned Predator or more heavily armed Reaper struck a vehicle as it traveled in Al Baydah province yesterday, killing four al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula fighters. The strike took place just two hours after an AQAP suicide bomber killed four soldiers from the Republican Guards in an attack in the city of Al Baydah.
No senior AQAP leaders or operatives were reported killed in the strike. US military and intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal would neither confirm nor deny that yesterday's strike took place.
Yesterday's strike followed three other strikes in central and southern Yemen that have taken place since March 9.
The last strike occurred on March 11, when the unmanned warplanes killed three AQAP fighters in Jaar. The target of the strike was weapons seized by AQAP during last week's assault on a military base in Al Koud in neighboring Abyan province. In that assault, AQAP overran a Yemeni mechanized base in Al Koud, killing 185 troops, wounding over 150, and capturing at least 55 more.
On March 10, AQAP "hideouts" in Jaar were targeted; 10 AQAP fighters were reported to have been killed. And on March 9, the Predators and Reapers hit an AQAP hideout in a rural area near Al Baydah. Abdulwahhab al-Homaiqani, an AQAP commander in the city, and 16 of his fighters were reported to have been killed in the strike.
The CIA and the US military's Joint Special Operations Command are known to have carried out at least 21 air and missile strikes inside Yemen since December 2009, including yesterday's strike in Al Baydah. Other recent airstrikes are believed to have been carried out by the US also, but little evidence has emerged to directly link the attacks to the US. [For more information on the US airstrikes in Yemen, see LWJ report, Charting the data for US air strikes in Yemen, 2002 - 2012.]
Since the beginning of May 2011, the US is known to have carried out 15 airstrikes in Yemen. Five of those strikes have taken place so far in 2012, with four of those occurring in the last week.
The pace of the US airstrikes has increased as AQAP and its political front, Ansar al Sharia, have taken control of vast areas of southern Yemen. In Abyan, the cities of Al Koud, Ja'ar, and Shaqra are currently run by AQAP. The terror group also controls Azzan in Shabwa province. AQAP seized control of Rada'a in Al Baydah in January but later withdrew after negotiating a peace agreement with the local government.