Dozens reported dead in two days of air strikes
The Ministry of Defense said that Yemen’s air force and American drones carried out the strikes which were targeting alleged al-Qaeda affiliates.
Details of the strikes remain murky and there are conflicting reports on the number of casualties.
The deputy head of the army’s Morale Guidance Department at the Defense Ministry, Ali Ghalib Al-Harazi, told the Yemen Times that approximately 53 people were killed, including 35 Yemenis and foreigners in Abyan late on Sunday and 12 on Monday, three in Shabwa on Sunday and three in Marib on Monday.
Abdulrazaq Al-Jaml, a journalist specializing in Al-Qaeda affairs, said “the number of the casualties on the part of Al-Qaeda is less than what is reported. There are about 33 dead. Three in Shabwa and the rest in Abyan.”
It was not possible to verify the death toll and the identities of the deceased from other independent sources.
Al-Harazi asserted that the strikes targeted Al-Qaeda affiliates and training camps, adding that several dead bodies were taken away by the militants.
The Defense Ministry on Sunday reported on its website that “the strike targeted the gunmen in training camps and left several of them, including foreigners of various nationalities, dead.”
Sunday’s raids in Abyan targeted Al-Mahfad, Al-Khayala, Lobiah and Al-Rasma areas and left 12 gunmen killed, including two Saudi nationals, according to Shaker Al-Ghadeer, a soldier in the 111th Brigade stationed near Al-Mahfad.
“Warplanes fly over the governorate and people are afraid, particularly after telecommunications were cut in Al-Mahfad,” he added.
According to Mohammed Hizam, the deputy head of public relations at the Interior Ministry, an American drone strike hit a car in Markha area to the west of Ataq in Shabwa governorate late Sunday evening, killing three people that the ministry claims were suspected militants.
This was corroborated by a source in the president’s office who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Hizam said the Defense Ministry sent a committee to Shabwa governorate to establish the identity of the casualties.
On Monday, three were killed and two others injured in an aerial raid in Marib, according to Hizam. Those killed have not been identified yet.
Al-Jaml said that he had not heard of any Yemeni aircraft striking targets. He said that the strikes were carried out by American drones.
The strikes come less than a month after Al-Qaeda released a video celebrating the escape of several of its members from the Sana’a Central Prison on Feb. 13. Nasser al-Wuhaishi, the leader of Yemen’s Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) appeared in the video speaking to a crowd of militants.
“I think the reason for this big strike on Al-Qaeda is the video footage the latter released last month. It was a setback for the American and Yemeni government to see such a large number of Al-Qaeda recruits,” Al-Jaml added.
The Ansar Al-Sharia, an offshoot of Al-Qaeda in southern Yemen, took control Abyan governorate in the middle of 2011. The army expelled them in the mid-2012.