US military forces in deadly raid on Qaeda in Yemen

ADEN: Elite US forces launched a dawn raid against Al Qaeda in Yemen on Sunday, killing at least 14 suspected fighters in an operation in which an American soldier also died. The assault marked Washington’s first major military action in Yemen under President Donald Trump, who has vowed to step up the US fight against extremism. The US military said the raid in the Yakla region of Baida province killed 14 members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which Washington views as the global network’s most dangerous branch.
A Yemeni provincial official gave a higher toll of 41 presumed militants and 16 civilians killed in the raid, including eight women and eight children.
Washington did not specify how the US soldier died. It said three more American servicemen were injured in the raid along with a fourth who was hurt in a “hard landing”, without providing details.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our elite service members,” said General Joseph Votel, commander of US Central Command in Tampa, Florida.
“The sacrifices are very profound in our fight against terrorists who threaten innocent peoples across the globe,” Votel said.
A civil war in Yemen between rebels and pro-government forces has killed more than 7,000 people since March 2015 and allowed extremists including AQAP and the IS group to gain ground in the nation.
Fierce clashes between Yemeni loyalists and the rebels have killed more than 100 fighters in the past 24 hours on Yemen’s west coast, officials said on Sunday.
Sunday’s US raid was said to have targeted the houses of three tribal chiefs linked to Al Qaeda.
The provincial official said Apache helicopters also struck a school, a mosque and a medical facility which were all used by Al Qaeda militants.
The three prominent tribal figures killed in the attack were identified as brothers Abdulraouf and Sultan al Zahab and Saif Alawai al Jawfi, the official and other sources said. They were known to be linked to Al Qaeda, the sources said.
Among the children killed in the raid was the daughter of the late US-born preacher Anwar al Awlaqi, Nura, who lived with the family of her maternal uncle, a relative said.
Awlaqi himself was killed in September 2011 in a drone strike and his son Abulrahman was killed two weeks later in a similar attack.
The operation, which military authorities said resulted in the capture of information that would “provide insight into the planning of future terrorist plots”, was the first major US military action in Yemen since Trump took office on January 20.
Under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, the US dramatically increased its use of drone strikes against suspected fighters in Yemen, as well as other countries including Afghanistan.
Although the US only sporadically reports on its long-running bombing campaign against AQAP, it is the only force known to operate armed drones over Yemen.
On January 14, the Pentagon announced the killing of a senior Al Qaeda operative in Baida the week before in an air strike.
Yemen’s long-running conflict escalated in March 2015 when a coalition began bombing raids against rebels who had stormed the capital and taken swathes of central and northern territory. Around 7,400 people have died in air strikes and clashes since then, the UN says, and aid agencies have warned of an impending humanitarian crisis. — AFP