The US military said it killed three operatives from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in a pair of airstrikes in central Yemen over the past two weeks. Both strikes, which occurred on Dec. 29 and Jan. 8, took place in the central Yemeni province of Al Baydah.
US Central Command (CENTCOM) announced the operation in a statement released today and noted that AQAP “remains a significant threat to the region, the United States and beyond.” Previous CENTCOM announcements of attacks on AQAP described the group as “a Foreign Terrorist Organization with a history of attacks against the United States and its allies.”
AQAP remains entrenched in southern and central Yemen despite the active targeting of the group and its leaders by the US for eight years.
Major Michael Meyer, a CENTCOM spokesman, said in the release counterterrorism operations like these strikes “put consistent pressure on the terrorist network and prevent them from plotting and executing attacks against the US and our allies.”
CENTCOM “remains committed to defeating AQAP and denying it safe havens in Yemen,” Meyer continued.
The US has stepped up its air campaign against AQAP in Yemen. The US launched 38 airstrikes against AQAP in 2016, the largest yearly total since 2012 (41 strikes). The targets have varied, as all aspects of AQAP’s network have come under fire. The US has killed senior and low-level leaders and commanders, as well as fighters. Additionally, the US has hit training camps, military formations, and even equipment captured from the Yemeni military.
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 claims to still operate training camps in Yemen to this day. In mid-July, AQAP touted its Hamza al Zinjibari Camp, where the group 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 the city as well as several provinces in both north and central Yemen.
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