The US killed several members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) during airstrikes in an area of southern Yemen, according to reports from the region.
Four AQAP fighters were killed yesterday by an airstrike in a mountain pass in the southern province of Abyan, according to Aden Online. Witnesses claimed the strike was carried out by “American military air craft.”
Fahd al Quso, a top operational commander of AQAP who has been indicted for his role in the suicide attack on the USS Cole in December 2000 and was officially added to the list of designated terrorists in December 2010, is rumored to have been the target of the strike. He has not been reported as killed or wounded. In the past, Quso was reported killed while in Pakistan, but in December 2010 he granted a media interview and mocked the reports.
In a second strike yesterday, which is also thought to have been carried out by US aircraft, seven AQAP fighters were killed in the southern port city of Shaqra, which is currently under the control of the terrorist group.
US military officials contacted by The Long War Journal would not comment on airstrikes, but said US forces are supporting Yemeni forces.
It is unclear if the strikes were carried out by manned strike aircraft or the unmanned US ‘drones,’ the deadly Predators and Reapers operated by the CIA. The CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command are known to fly armed Predators from bases in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, and the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean. Bases are also being built in Ethiopia and an unnamed country on the Arabian Peninsula.
The US is known to have carried out at least 13 air and cruise missile strikes against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leaders and fighters since mid-December 2009. Seven of those strikes have taken place this year. Other recent airstrikes in southern Yemen are thought to have been carried out by the US also, but little evidence has emerged to directly link the attacks to the US. The last confirmed strike, on Sept. 1, took place in Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan that until recently was under the control of AQAP and its front group, Ansar al Sharia. The strike reportedly killed 30 AQAP fighters.
For more information on the US airstrikes in Yemen, see LWJ reports, Charting the data for US air strikes in Yemen, 2002 – 2011. For more information on Ansar al Sharia, AQAP’s rise in southern Yemen, and US counterterrorism efforts, see LWJ report, US ‘drones’ kill 15 al Qaeda fighters in southern Yemen.