US hits Qaeda in Yemen with new air strikes

ADEN/WASHINGTON: The United States carried out another wave of strikes against Al Qaeda in Yemen overnight, residents and US officials said on Friday, in the latest sign of increasing US military focus on a group whose strength has grown during Yemen’s civil war.
A day after US forces carried out more than 20 air strikes in Yemen, residents reported another US assault in the Wadi Yashbum village in the southern Shabwah province including about 10 to 15 air strikes.
Residents said some of the strikes hit civilian homes and a number of civilians were among the wounded.
About three hours later, residents in the Jabal Mugan area of neighbouring Abyan province also reported air strikes.
Residents also cited ground battles involving American soldiers and Al Qaeda militants but two US officials said the latest operations did not involve ground combat.
“None of our troops were involved in a firefight over the last period of darkness,” one of the US officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The strikes follow a January 29 raid against AQAP by US commandos, an operation that resulted in the death of 14 militants and a Navy SEAL, as well as civilians.
The White House and other US officials have said the mission yielded valuable intelligence but critics questioned its value and effectiveness.
AQAP has been a persistent concern to the US government since an attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009 that was traced back to the militant group.
It has exploited a civil war in which the Ansar Allah movement is fighting the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, which is backed by US-aligned Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies.
The war has killed more than 10,000 people and put millions of people, including half a million children under age 5, on the brink of starvation, UN officials say.
The Saudi-led coalition, which benefits from US military assistance, has focused most of its firepower against the Ansar Allah and allied forces loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, but has also targeted some AQAP strongholds.
 — Reuters