Reports from Yemen indicate that “missiles fired from the sea” killed 16 AQAP fighters on the outskirts of Zinjibar. From Sky News:
Missiles fired from the sea have slammed into al-Qaeda positions in the southern Yemeni city of Zinjibar, killing at least 16 suspected militants, a local official says.
He said the heavy shelling began overnight, targeting the northeastern suburbs of Zinjibar, which jihadists have controlled since May following fierce fighting with government troops.
‘Many bases of al-Qaeda were destroyed,’ and 16 jihadists were killed, the official said on condition of anonymity.
The attacks were launched from the sea, he added.
Witnesses in the nearby town of Jaar said on Sunday the bodies of 16 gunmen were buried in a makeshift graveyard in an ammunition factory. The corpses were torn to pieces.
Yemeni forces also launched air raids south of Jaar, another stronghold of al-Qaeda, the official said.
If missiles were indeed fired from the sea (and we have no confirmation of this, only the word of an anonymous Yemeni official), then they were most likely fired by US Navy warships. The Yemeni Navy does not possess the capacity to conduct such strikes; its missile boats and corvettes fire only anti-ship missiles.
More interestingly, the US appears to be directly intervening in Yemen’s civil war with AQAP. US drones conducted at least four airstrikes in Yemen last week, and none of the targets appear to have been senior AQAP leaders. In fact, the targets appear to have been low-level fighters as well as equipment seized from a Yemeni Army base that was overrun in Al Koud less than two weeks ago.
AP reports the AQAP fighters were killed in artillery strikes: “A local official said that up to 14 militants were killed in artillery attacks and clashes on Saturday north of the Abyan provincial capital of Zinjibar, the area of Bagdar and the town of Jaar.”
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The assertion that the Yemeni Navy would not be able to conduct a sea launched missile attack on coastal targets is incorrect. Though the article is correct in stating that the Yemeni navy only operates seaborne anti-ship missiles, these missiles can be used to attack land based targets. For example in the Persian Gulf War and the early stages of the Iraq War, there were instances of the anti-ship Silkworm missile being used to attack land targets. The thing that points to Western involvement in the accuracy of the strikes, anti-ship missiles are generally rather inaccurate when used against land targets. There is also the possibility that the attacks were actually naval gunfire misreported as missile hits, since the Yemeni navy’s Tarantul class corvette operates 76 mm artillery that can be used for coastal bombardment.
ITS CALLED SEE THE SEA MISSILES