Yemen has carried out several airstrikes today on the home of a leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who was reported to have been killed in a strike last week.
The Yemeni Air Force carried out several bombing runs against the home of Ayed al Shabwani, the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Marib province, in the village of Erq al Shabwan.
The military attacked Shabwani’s home and a nearby orange grove four times today, according to a report at Al Jazeera. Al Qaeda fighters were reportedly sheltering in the orange grove in a facility built by Shabwani. The al Qaeda fighters in the area returned fire on the attack aircraft.
“The government said there was an exchange of fire and that al-Qaeda members were armed with anti-aircraft weapons, which they tried to use against the government aircraft,” an Al Jazeera reporter said.
The editor of the Yemen Post, a pro-government news outlet, said there were 17 raids in Marib during the day.
“Today, there have been 17 raids inside Marib, most of them trying to attack Shabwani and his friends. They are still ongoing,” Hakim Almasmari, the editor, stated. “Until now, there is only one al-Qaida leader killed. [Yemeni security forces] have troops on the ground, but doing nothing. Most of the attacks are from the air.”
Marib is one of several provinces, including Abyan, that is considered to be beyond the control of the government. The governor of Marib, Ahmed al Misri, admitted as much in a recent interview with The Christian Science Monitor.
“In all honesty, [government control] is not so strong,” al Misri said during a meeting with reporters. “We don’t have enough weapons, we don’t have enough soldiers. Our resources are so stretched that if something happens in the countryside, we can’t respond because there are no helicopters of airplanes.”
Yemeni government’s claims of al Qaeda casualties are suspect
The Yemeni government is fast losing its credibility for accurate reporting on the status of al Qaeda leaders and operatives killed or captured during government operations.
Several days ago, the Yemeni government claimed that Shabwani had been killed in an airstrike on Jan. 15 along with Qasim al Raymi, the military commander of the terror group.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula denied the government reports that Raymi, Shabwani, and four other operatives were killed. Raymi was spotted by tribal leaders a day after the government claimed he was killed.
This week, the Yemeni government retracted its claims that Said Ali al Shihri, the deputy leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, was captured after an accident at a military checkpoint. The government later claimed that a different man, Yusuf al Shihri, was actually the person who had been captured after the accident, but Yusuf was killed last year.
Yemen began to exert pressure on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in mid-December 2009 after the US and Britain began voicing concerns over the terror group’s ability to sponsor attacks in Saudi Arabia and the West. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has been establishing training camps, and it has supported Al Shabaab, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia. Two recent attacks on the US – the Christmas Eve airline plot, and the shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas – have been traced back to Yemen. Authorities now believe more plots are being hatched in Yemen.
Since mid-December, there have been four airstrikes against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leaders. The Yemeni government claims it is carrying out the strikes, but the US is known to have conducted the first strike, on Dec. 17. US officials say the US is only providing intelligence and military support for the strikes.
Airstrikes in Yemen targeting Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula
Jan. 20, 2010
Jan. 15, 2010
Dec. 24, 2009
Dec. 17, 2009
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.