Al Qaeda takes three Yemen towns

Aden: Al Qaeda in Yemen has taken over three southern towns just days after a deadly US special operations raid targeting its commanders, a security official and tribal sources said on Friday.
The group’s advance into the Abyan province towns of Loder, Shaqra and Ahwar came as the White House defended Sunday’s raid on an Al Qaeda compound as a “success”, even though multiple civilians and a Navy SEAL were killed.
Abyan has long been an Al Qaeda stronghold and it was only through a major offensive backed by a coalition last summer that the government was able to drive its fighters out of the province’s main towns.
The group’s entry into Loder and Shaqra on Thursday evening was helped by a pullout by government forces angry over the late payment of their wages, a security official said.
“Our forces are also angry that they have not been provided with the weapons and other equipment to confront the extremists, who have been stepping up their armed attacks,” the official said.
Al Qaeda fighters set up roadblocks around the towns and blew up two security service buildings.
Saudi-led aircraft carried out two strikes on extremist positions in Loder overnight, the official added. Tribal sources said there were fears that the extremists would now move on the provincial capital Zinjibar.
Zinjibar lies just 50 kilometres from Yemen’s second city Aden where the government is based.
Al Qaeda has taken advantage of nearly two years of fighting between government forces and the rebels who control the capital Sanaa to entrench its presence in the south.
The White House on Thursday defended a US special operations raid in Yemen as a “success by all standards,” even though multiple civilians and a Navy SEAL were killed, and the mission was beset with problems.
Sunday’s raid — the first authorized by President Donald Trump — saw US special operations forces enter the Yakla region of Baida province and target a compound occupied by Al Qaeda in the Arabic Peninsula (AQAP) operatives.
Washington views the Al Qaeda affiliate, known for plotting attacks in other countries, as the global terror network’s most dangerous branch.
Navy SEAL Team Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, 36, was killed and three other US troops were wounded in a fierce gunfight.
Three more service members were injured when their tilt-rotor aircraft made a “hard landing.” The $75 million MV-22 Osprey had to be destroyed in place to avoid having it fall into enemy hands.
And on Wednesday, the Pentagon acknowledged that several non-combatants, including children, had apparently been killed in the raid.
A Yemeni provincial official had previously said 16 civilians were killed — eight women and eight children — but the Pentagon did not provide numbers.
Washington is also facing questions on whether an eight-year-old American girl died. Local sources say the girl was the daughter of senior Al Qaeda cleric and US citizen Anwar al Awlaqi, killed in a 2011 US drone strike. — AFP