US drone strike hits AQAP training camp in southern Yemen


The US killed three suspected al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula fighters in the first drone strike in Yemen in nearly three weeks.

Today's strike targeted an AQAP training center in the Al Mahfad area of Abyan province, Xinhua reported. The remotely piloted Predators or Reapers fired three missiles at "two huts and a site used as a training center," killing three fighters and wounding four more, some seriously.

AQAP fighters collected the wounded and drove them to Azzan in Shabwa province, according to Barakish. The site that was targeted was recently featured in an AQAP propaganda video.

The Al Mahfad area is a known stronghold for AQAP. In the spring of 2012, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula fighters and leaders regrouped in the Al Mahfad area after being driven from cities such as Zinjibar, Jaar, Lawdar, and Shaqra during a Yemeni military offensive that began in the spring of 2012 [see Threat Matrix report, AQAP regroups in Abyan province]. AQAP controlled the cities in Abyan, as well as other cities and towns in neighboring Shabwa province, after launching its own offensive in 2011.

AQAP remains entrenched in the Al Mahfad area despite several Yemeni military operations that attempted to dislodge the terror group. The US launched three drone strikes in the Al Mahfad area in 2013; one in May, one in June, and one in July.

Today's strike is the first in Yemen since March 12, when US drones killed a local AQAP commander and his bodyguard in the northern province of Al Jawf.

Background on US strikes in Yemen

The US has launched eight strikes in Yemen so far this year. Four of those strikes took place in March, and three in January.

The pace of the drone strikes in Yemen decreased last year from the previous year (26 in 2013 versus 41 in 2012). The reduction in the number of strikes coincided with a speech by President Barack Obama at the National Defense University in May 2013. The strikes are being reduced as the US government is facing increasing international criticism for conducting the attacks in both Yemen and Pakistan.

The number of strikes might have been much lower in 2013 were it not for an al Qaeda plot emanating from Yemen that was uncovered by US officials in late July. The plot led the US to close down more than 20 embassies and diplomatic facilities across Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. The plot involved AQAP emir Nasir al Wuhayshi, who now also serves as al Qaeda's general manager.

Between July 27, after the plot was disclosed, and Aug. 10, the US launched nine strikes in Yemen; no drone strikes were reported for seven weeks prior to July 27. The burst in attacks was intended to disrupt the plot and take out AQAP's top leadership cadre and senior operatives. The US killed Kaid al Dhahab, AQAP's emir for Al Baydah province, during that time period.

For more information on the US airstrikes in Yemen, see LWJ report, Charting the data for US airstrikes in Yemen, 2002 - 2014.



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READER COMMENTS: "US drone strike hits AQAP training camp in southern Yemen"

Posted by Barry Larking at April 2, 2014 6:26 AM ET:

Other regular followers of the LWJ may have viewed similar propaganda videos such as referred to in this report and wondered as I have "If these masses of prancing zealots are out in the open why can't they be found and dealt with?" Is it something to do with resources or are the videos just, in fact, play acting of the kind television advertising goes in for; hired for the day to make an impression?

However, a more subtle idea comes to mind. Perhaps the US authorities are playing a long game and waiting for the key facilitators to roll up. For a 'training centre' this is not a large casualty list; unless these are the stars of the show? I think credit where credit is due applies here.

Posted by Carol Anne Grayson at April 2, 2014 6:43 AM ET:

YEMEN... Families of civilian drone victims launch campaign and support organization, one week after youth traumatized to death after witnessing US drone strike... How many more innocent people will be killed!

http://activist1.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/drones-yemeni-families-launch-national-organization-for-drone-victims-nodv/

Posted by popseal at April 2, 2014 9:35 AM ET:

I've followed the drone program since early I 2004. Anybody who is against it is an enemy of the United States and her freedom.

Posted by Gabriel at April 2, 2014 2:12 PM ET:

Carol,

Yes it is a tragedy we all wish we could avoid but the reality is it can't. IF these militants want a fair trial then they should come in and let the courts decide. This is war, people die. If us or Yemen could just roll up in the cities and take care of the problem we would but thats just not possible. The fact that you ignore all the innocent people these militants kill from suicide bombings, assassinations, is just bias on your part. These people must be stopped. If that means they get killed by a drone then so be it. NO ONE TRULT KNOWS THE EXACT AMOUNT OF INNCOCENT PEOPLE WHO GET KILLED BY DRONES.I doubt its a high percentage

Posted by Gabriel at April 2, 2014 2:18 PM ET:

Carol,

Yes it is a tragedy we all wish we could avoid but the reality is it can't. IF these militants want a fair trial then they should come in and let the courts decide. This is war, people die. If us or Yemen could just roll up in the cities and take care of the problem we would but thats just not possible. The fact that you ignore all the innocent people these militants kill from suicide bombings, assassinations, is just bias on your part. These people must be stopped. If that means they get killed by a drone then so be it. NO ONE TRULT KNOWS THE EXACT AMOUNT OF INNCOCENT PEOPLE WHO GET KILLED BY DRONES.I doubt its a high percentage

Posted by Bikebrains at April 2, 2014 3:00 PM ET:

Since we have been fighting AQ for over 13 years and AQ has gotten well know support from Pakistan, the following story is surprisingly relevant. I just got back from Walmart where I had gone to buy socks. The container holding the socks said "Made in Pakistan". I did not buy those socks and I went to the Customer Service desk and complained about Walmart's selling Pakistani goods. I am going to sent a complaint to Walmart. I suggest all readers do the same. I have read too many books about the war in Afghanistan to know that many Americans died because of Pakistan.
@LWJ: Please allow this comment to stay posted.

Posted by EDDIED. at April 2, 2014 8:35 PM ET:

It is a tragedy that civilians get caught up in the mess of war but that is war. I agree with Gabriel. Another thing that you should understand is, America does not target innocent civilians. If anything, blame the terrorist for hiding in amongst them and causing the innocent peoples deaths. The terrorist are the murderers.

Posted by JT at April 3, 2014 2:13 AM ET:

Remember that there were busloads of people who drove in from Syria just prior to the US taking down of Saddam Hussein. They had good intentions, out of a lack of trust of the US and the coalition.

They intended to stage themselves as human shields at places like schools and hospitals. The Hussein regime tried putting them at regime and military targets. After a couple days, they were all back on buses to Syria.

Regardless of the media camera angles and coverage of the subsequent "shock and awe," it was no coincidence that the next day, Baghdad residents were out and about as if it were a normal day, just keeping away from what they knew were legit targets. The planning and precision of those strikes were truly awesome.

The US tries very hard to avoid hitting civilians. Also unlike the terrorist jihadists, the US follows the rules of war that include NOT targeting places like schools, hospitals, and houses of worship. Unless they are being used for military purposes by the enemy. And the US does not summarily execute POWs.

If anyone thinks the US is anywhere near as barbaric as the people who want a worldwide Islamic theocracy, they are missing reality, to put it mildly.

Posted by Barry Larking at April 3, 2014 10:41 AM ET:

Carol, Your concern for the lives of others reflects yours and my upbringing. Those are the values we placed our trust in only to see them exploited. Our enemies constantly remind us that they are careless of their own lives and because we cherish ours and those we love, we will lose and they will triumph. To prove it they have blown up their own cities, towns and villages, and murdered any who opposed their hatred. We, the western countries, do not seek war. We know it, and have suffered for it. We fight openly and in defence of what we believe to be right; love and cherish above all, peace. We are in this war not because we sought it, but because we were attacked. First.

Posted by Knighthawk at April 15, 2014 11:54 PM ET:

re: walmart selling paki socks... might want to consider said job(s) in paki may be keeping a few potential yuts from going jihadi. levi & fotl both have operations in paki, i wouldnt blame walmart(unless all their socks in the store were sourced from paki), that said to each their own when it comes to purchasing decisions as i'm no stranger to paying a premium to avoid certain brands or companies.

Posted by Anon at April 18, 2014 1:32 PM ET:

I have a relative who is about as senior and close to the US drone program as one can be. I asked him about the claims of innocents dying in drone attacks and his response was that the HVT's (high value targets) deliberately surround themselves with women and children in order to gain a political victory in the event they are targeted. He also added that the decision on whether to strike a target or not weighs heavily on the collateral casualties that will result. When civilian deaths do occur, it is often the target's direct family members (such as would have been the case with a Bin Laden drone strike). The fact that the terrorists keep their wives, children and other innocents close by, knowing that they could become victims of a drone attack shows their ruthlessness and complete lack of value for human life. Its no different than a criminal that turns his family into hostages in order to achieve his agenda.