The United States killed two Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) commanders during operations in central Yemen last month. In announcing the strike, US Central Command (CENTCOM) provided a rare look into the targeting of AQAP’s network. Until now, the US military had provided few details on its efforts during 2017 to defeat the al Qaeda branch.
The United States conducted at least two airstrikes against AQAP in Yemen’s Al Bayda governorate on Nov. 20, US Central Command announced today.
The strikes killed five AQAP members including two high-value targets: Mujahid al-Adani and Abu Layth al-Sanaani. Al-Adani, also known as Mohammad Shukri, was an AQAP leader in Shabwah who was responsible for attacks against Yemeni and coalition forces. He previously served as an AQAP military commander in Aden. Al Sanaani was described by CENTCOM as an “Al Bayda-based facilitator.”
Until today’s press release, CENTCOM had not released details on the target or locations of any strikes against AQAP in Yemen during 2017. Previously, CENTCOM provided only an estimate of the number of strikes, but had not disclosed the targets or location of the attacks.
The United States has launched more than 120 strikes against AQAP and the Islamic State in Yemen in 2017, greater than the totals for 2014, 2015, and 2016 combined. But details remain vague. FDD’s Long War Journal has inquired with CENTCOM three times about strikes against AQAP in Yemen in 2017. In mid-Sep., CENTCOM told us the number was “more than 100.” In mid-Nov., CENTCOM told us the number was “more than 110,” six of which were conducted against the Islamic State. Today, CENTCOM told us the number was “more than 120” against AQAP and the Islamic State.
CENTCOM has, however, published details on strikes targeting the Islamic State in Yemen. US forces have targeted the Islamic State six times this year, the first of which occurred on Oct. 16, 2017. All of the strikes that targeted the Islamic State have taken place in Al Bayda.
US Special Forces supported a Yemeni and coalition offensive to clear Shabwah from AQAP during the summer of 2017, which purportedly forced the group to retreat into Al Bayda.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal. Alexandra Gutowski is a military affairs analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.