20 US forces airstrikes against AQAP militants and infrastructure in 24 hours
On Thursday March 4, 2017, US forces conducted a series of airstrikes against purported Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants and infrastructure in the provinces of Abyan, Al-Baida and Shabwa.
"More than 20 strikes targeted AQAP militants, equipment and infrastructure in the Yemeni governorates of Abyan, Baida and Shabwa," Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said in a statement.
The strikes were conducted in partnership with the government of Yemen, and were coordinated with President (Abedrabbo Mansour) Hadi." Added Davis.
Davis said that the strikes targeted equipment, infrastructure, fighting positions and heavy weapons.
On Thursday, Abdusalam Alkindi, an Aden-based journalist said that the strikes begun after AQAP leader Saad Atif returned to the area adding that AQAP members in Shabwa were returning fire with anti-aircraft guns.
The total death toll of the strikes is currently unknown but according to Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Yemen Yasser Hassan, three AQAP members were killed in Al-Saeed City in Shabwa Province.
Hassan added on Thursday, that Drones and Helicopters conducted air strikes in various areas inside Al-Baida Province.
About a month ago a US commando team conducted a failed raid against purported AQAP members in Al-Baida which resulted in killing almost 40 persons but this number varies between local media outlets some, of which have reported a fewer number of casualties.
According to a statement from U.S. Central Command, 14 militants were killed during the operation.
The same raid also left one SEAL team member dead and three others injured. Despite the heavy death toll the White House insisted that the raid was a “success” and that it gained valuable intelligence.
According to the Washington Post the US military has been seeking approval for an “on-the-ground intelligence and a counterterrorism program” but was shut down among the rising instability in 2015.
A defense official said that the US military had been granted temporary permission to conduct intense air operations against AQAP inside Yemen. Adding that the number of airstrikes carried by manned and unmanned aircrafts is 25 raids.
The source also explained that the US has been granted temporary authority “to conduct intensified air operations against AQAP in some areas of Yemen.”
If such authority is granted for a lengthy period of time, aggressive attacks against purported AQAP targets might recur at an alarming rate and civilian causality figures are bound to increase.