The US military says eight al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula operatives were killed in a pair of airstrikes in Yemen over the past two weeks. The military said the strikes were conducted to deny al Qaeda “a haven” in Yemen.
From a US Central Command (CENTCOM) statement released today:
The U.S. military successfully struck two targets in central Yemen, killing eight terrorists associated with the group known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
One strike Oct. 6 killed two terrorists in a remote area of the Shabwah Governorate.
A second strike Oct. 18 killed six terrorists also in a remote area of the Shabwah Governorate.
“Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula remains a significant threat to the region and to the United States,” said Army Maj. Josh T. Jacques, U.S. Central Command spokesman. “Al Qaeda’s presence has a destabilizing effect on Yemen, and we are working to deny them a haven from which to plan future attacks.”
The US has stepped up its air campaign against AQAP in Yemen. The US previously targeted AQAP’s network in Yemen at least twice in October, and at least 30 times in 2016, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal. In 2016, the US has already exceeded the number of strikes of each of the three previous years (26 strikes in 2013, 23 each in 2014 and 2015). Since 2009, the US has launched 159 drone, missile, and conventional strikes against AQAP. [See LWJ report, Charting the data for US airstrikes in Yemen, 2002 – 2016.]
AQAP still controls rural areas of central and southern Yemen despite both attacks from the US and a United Arab Emirates-led ground offensive, which ejected the group from major cities and towns that it held between March 2016 and the summer of 2016. AQAP is known to operate training camps in Yemen, and claims to do so to this day. In mid-July, AQAP touted its Hamza al Zinjibari Camp, which trains its “special forces.” Zinjibari was an AQAP military field commander who was killed in a US drone strike in Feb. 2016.
The US military targets AQAP with the approval of Yemen’s government in exile. The government was forced to flee the capital of Sana’a after Houthi rebels overran it and several provinces in both north and central Yemen.