US Predators strike again in southern Yemen

US drones killed five al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula fighters in a strike today in an area that is currently under the terror group’s control.

The unmanned and heavily armed Predators or the more deadly Reapers targeted an AQAP vehicle as it was traveling near the town of Karma in the Azzan district in Shabwa province, according to The Yemen Post. Five AQAP fighters, but no senior leaders, are said to have been killed in the strike.

Azzan is one of several cities under AQAP control. The city was one of the first to fall to AQAP in early June 2011 after the terror group seized control of Zinjibar in neighboring Abyan province in late May 2011.

The family of slain AQAP ideologue and operational commander Anwar al Awlaki is from Azzan. Anwar’s son, Abdul Rahman al Awlaki, was killed in October 2011 in Azzan. One month earlier, Anwar al Awlaki had been killed in a drone strike in Al Jawf province.

The US has carried out four drone strikes in Azzan. The two other strikes took place on March 30 this year, when drones targeted a vehicle and a compound in separate attacks that killed nine AQAP fighters and one civilian.

US strikes in Yemen

The US has carried out at least four airstrikes in Yemen this month; the last strike took place on April 14 in Baydah province. The US launched at least six strikes against AQAP in Yemen in March.

The CIA and the US military’s Joint Special Operations Command are known to have carried out at least 27 air and missile strikes inside Yemen since December 2009, including today’s strike in Azzan. 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.

Since the beginning of May 2011, the US is known to have carried out 21 airstrikes in Yemen. Eleven of those strikes have taken place so far in 2012. This year, the US appears to be targeting AQAP foot soldiers in an effort to support Yemeni military operations against the terror group. AQAP has taken control of vast areas in southern Yemen and has been expanding operations against the government with raids on military bases in locations previously thought to be outside the terror group’s control.

Only one of this year’s 11 strikes has killed a senior AQAP operative in Yemen. On Jan. 31, US drones killed Abdul Mun’im Salim al Fatahani near the city of Lawdar in Abyan province. Fatahani was involved in the October 2000 suicide attack on the USS Cole in the port of Aden that killed 17 US sailors, as well as the bombing that damaged the Limburg oil tanker in 2002. AQAP said that Fatahani had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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. AQAP controls the cities of Zinjibar, Al Koud, Ja’ar, and Shaqra in Abyan province. The terror group also controls Azzan in Shabwa province. AQAP seized control of Rada’a in Baydah province in January but later withdrew after negotiating a peace agreement with the local government.

US intelligence officials believe that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula poses a direct threat to the homeland. The terror group has plotted multiple attacks against targets in the US. A strike in Yemen last year killed Anwar al Awlaki, the radical, US-born cleric who plotted attacks against the US, and Samir Khan, another American who served as a senior AQAP propagandist. Abdul Rahman al Awlaki, Anwar’s son, was killed in a separate strike in the country.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • ArneFufkin says:

    Apparently this current American Administration has decided that vicious retribution against the Haqqani network for their audacious attacks against our personnel last weekend in Afghanistan is too … “politically complicated” … in an election season.
    Why aren’t we raining the Waziristans with GBUs and Hellfires?
    It seems our “leadership” has surrendered in Afghanistan so I’m starting to join the crowd who have reluctantly come to the ets get our warriors out of there.

  • David Forscey says:

    This is one of the top 3 sites for reporting on our tango with the tinderbox of terrorism.

  • Devin Leonard says:

    I agree that we need to be raining down hellfires in Waziristan…and if the Pakis don’t like it cut off their military and civilian aid completley and they will come around. But we shouldn’t just pick up and leave Afghanistan. Peolpe don’t get how deadly that would be for us. Ambassador Crocker is right on, and having served three tours there I can testify that we need at least a strong Spec Ops and CIA presence in the country after 2014, to keep the Taliban and Haqqani scum from taking over the rest of the country and Kabul.
    If we just leave we are inviting Al Qaida to re-group and stage another 9/11…and nobody wants that to happen no matter what party you belong to.

  • J House says:

    Thank you, Bill.
    The pace of airstrikes in Yemen is clearly increasing and the U.S. is deepening itself in the civil war, yet the outcome is uncertain, given the political realities of the Royal Govt of Yemen and the newly installed president, courtesey of the Obama admin. What are we to make of the weakness of the Yemeni military forces and the fact that they cannot defend their own country without U.S. financial and military support, including tactical airstrikes and extra-judicial killings of American citizens turned terrorists.
    Another question is, how many U.S. ground forces are part of this campaign in an ‘advisory’ capacity, and why isn’t it being debated in Congress, or the media? Then Gen. Pet. asked then President Saleh in a private meeting for permission to do just this…has the U.S. followed through now that Saleh is ‘retired’?
    What is the end game to this not so secret war in Yemen? What is Saudi Arabia’s role in it?
    At least 2 terroririst attacks have been launched on the U.S. homeland within the last 2 years that eminated from Yemen.We seem to have another Afghanistan on our hands with a central govt not in control.
    …yet silence from the left, middle and right.


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