The Associated Press & AntiWar.com & Reuters & The Daily Times – 2017-03-05 23:11:29
Yemen Officials See Latest US Strikes as Sustained Operation
Ahmen Al-Haj / The Associated Press & The Seattle Times
SANAA, Yemen (March 3, 2017) — US jets carried out dozens of airstrikes on al-Qaida targets in Yemen overnight and in the past 48 hours in one of the lengthiest, sustained operations inside this conflict-torn Arab country, Yemeni officials and residents said Friday.
According to the officials, the strikes focused on a triangle-shaped mountainous region where three Yemeni provinces meet: Bayda, Shabwa, and Abyan. Casualty figures have been slow to emerge but officials said seven alleged al-Qaida militants were killed in the strikes on Thursday.
A senior Yemeni official described the strikes as “open-ended” and said they raised questions about the objectives of such an operation.
Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters Friday that US warplanes over the past two days targeted members of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, as well as the group’s infrastructure, fighting positions and heavy weapons. He said approximately 25 strikes had been launched on Thursday and “several” more Friday, for a total of more than 30.
Davis said the US was engaged in a sustained campaign in areas of Yemen where AQAP is most active. He said no US ground troops have been involved in firefights there since a late-January raid.
Residents in Shabwa said strikes hit the town of Wadi Yabsham, where Saad Atef, the No. 2 figure in Yemen’s al-Qaida branch, is living.
The residents and Yemeni officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk to journalists.
Sadek al-Jaouf, a Bayada tribal leader, told The Associated Press that houses were bombed in Yakla district — the site of a US special operations raid two months ago in which a Navy SEAL was killed, six American soldiers were wounded and a US military aircraft suffered a hard landing and had to be destroyed.
In the ground operation, a total of 25 Yemenis were killed, including 10 children, drawing criticism by international rights groups and calls for an inquiry.
Al-Jaouf added that the top tribal figure, Abdel-Elah al-Dhahab, whose brothers were accused of links to al-Qaida and were killed in the January raid, survived the latest strikes.
On Thursday, Davis said the latest strikes were aimed at degrading al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula’s ability to “coordinate external terror attacks” and to limit its use of Yemen as a “safe space for terror plotting.” The group has long been seen as the global network’s most dangerous branch, and has been implicated in a number of attempted attacks on the US homeland.
The group has recently exploited the chaos of Yemen’s civil war, which pits Shiite Houthi rebels and allied army units against a Saudi-led coalition battling to restore the internationally recognized government.
Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldor and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.
US Launches a Flurry of
Airstrikes Against al-Qaeda in Yemen
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(March 2, 2017) — In the first direct US military action in Yemen since the disastrous January SEAL Team 6 raid, US warplanes and drones launched a flurry of attacks against targets across southern and central Yemen, targeting a series of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)-held districts, mostly remote areas in the mountains.
Over 20 distinct airstrikes were reported, with reports of as many as nine people, all labeled “suspects” having been killed. The Pentagon said the strikes were meant to degrade AQAP’s ability to launch strikes abroad, and to limit their ability to use territory inside Yemen.
Details on what was hit aren’t totally clear, with various “camps” and “depots” said to be targeted. AQAP issued its own statement claiming to have repelled a US ground raid in the Abyan Province. The Pentagon denied that any ground raids were taking place.
The timing of such a large number of coordinated strikes has not been officially explained, but raises speculation that President Trump’s attempts to defend the January raid as having produced “actionable” intelligence are in play, with the hopes that a bunch of new action will create a link between the two incidents.
Pentagon officials have repeatedly insisted none of the laptops or other computers seized in the January raid had any intelligence, beyond things they already knew about from other sources.
Though the Pentagon has issued multiple statements confirming no actionable intelligence was netted, and officials have repeatedly detailed myriad things that went wrong during the raid, President Trump has repeatedly insisted it was a runaway success.
US Pounds al Qaeda in Yemen with More than 20 Strikes
Phil Stewart and Mohammed Mukhashaf / Reuters
WASHINGTON/ADEN, Yemen (March 2, 2017) — The United States said it carried out more than 20 precision strikes in Yemen targeting al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula on Thursday, in the first major operations against the group since a January raid by US commandos.
The Pentagon said the strikes, which were first reported by Reuters, targeted al Qaeda militants, heavy weapons systems, equipment, infrastructure and the group’s fighting positions.
They were carried out in the Yemeni governorates of Abyan, Al Bayda and Shabwah.
“The strikes will degrade the AQAP’s ability to coordinate external terror attacks and limit their ability to use territory seized from the legitimate government of Yemen as a safe space for terror plotting,” Navy Captain Jeff Davis said, using an acronym for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
The strikes come a month since a Jan. 29 raid against AQAP. The operation, the first of its kind authorized by new President Donald Trump, was hailed as a success by the White House and other US officials. Still, critics questioned the value and effectiveness of an mission which killed women and children, as well as several militants and a Navy SEAL.
Trump, citing information from his defense secretary, told Congress on Tuesday that the raid yielded valuable intelligence that would “lead to many more victories in the future.”
Still, one US official suggested Thursday’s strikes – which included use of US drones and manned aircraft – had been in the planning stages before the January raid.
AT LEAST NINE DEAD
The US military did not estimate the number of militants killed in the strikes, but residents and local officials in southern Yemen said that at least nine suspected al Qaeda militants died in two separate incidents.
They said four men believed to belong to al Qaeda died in a strike on a building in al-Saeed, an area of Shabwa province home to the al-Awaleq, the extended clan of Anwar al-Awlaki, a militant and US citizen killed in by US drone in 2011.
Another five suspected al Qaeda fighters died when a missile fired by a drone struck a vehicle carrying weapons while traveling on a road between al-Wadie district and the area of Moujan, in Abyan province, some 40 km (25 miles) away, according to a local official.
In a separate incident, residents and local officials in the Gulf of Aden town of Shuqra in southern Yemen also reported air strikes in an adjacent mountain area where hundreds of al Qaeda militants are believed to be based.
They said they heard loud explosions early on Thursday morning in al-Maraqisha, a rugged mountainous area where al Qaeda militants took refuge last year after they were driven out of Yemeni cities they had captured earlier.
There were no immediate details available on damages or casualties caused by those strikes.
INTELLIGENCE ON AQAP
AQAP boasts one of the world’s most feared bomb makers, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, and it has been a persistent concern to the US government ever since a 2009 attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day.
The militant group has taken also advantage of a civil war pitting the Iran-aligned Houthis against the Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to try to widen its control and influence in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country, one of the poorest in the Middle East.
The conflict, which U.N. officials say has killed more than 10,000 people, has also forced the United States to scale back its presence in Yemen, degrading US intelligence about the group, officials say.
A senior US official said intelligence collected in the Jan. 29 raid however provided valuable insight into AQAP’s explosives manufacturing, targeting, training and recruitment practices.
Reporting by Phil Stewart in Washington, Mohammed Mukhashaf in Aden and Mohammed Ghobari in Cairo, writing by Phil Stewart and Sami Aboudi.
45,000 Displaced by Battles
Around Yemen’s Mokha: UN
The Daily Times (Pakistan)
DUBAI (March 2, 2017) — Fighting around Yemen’s port of Mokha has forced some 45,000 people from their homes, a UN official said Wednesday, with many facing continued uncertainty and the threat of further displacement.
Shabia Mantoo, the Yemen spokeswoman for refugee agency UNHCR, told AFP that data compiled by her the agency and the UN Migration Agency (IOM) showed 45,000 people had been displaced in the last few weeks from Mokha and the nearby town of Dhubab.
Fighting has intensified in recent weeks in the southwest of Yemen, where forces loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi are battling to retake large parts of the country seized by Shiite Huthi rebels.
Loyalist troops took Mokha on February 10 and announced they aimed to push north and take the country’s main Red Sea port of Hodeida next. Mantoo said many of those fleeing the fighting around Mokha made their way north to Ibb district and to Hodeida province.
“Eight thousand people have been displaced from Mokha and Dhubab to Hodeida alone, many of them with literally nothing but the clothes on their backs,” Mantoo said.
Two major concerns now are how to maintain access to the area and where the displaced will go if the fighting reaches Hodeida.
“The whole country is suffering from multiple displacement,” Mantoo said. “People move from one place to another, because eventually it gets just as bad.”
The UN estimates three million people have been displaced across Yemen.
The Huthi rebels launched a deadly counter-offensive after losing control of Mokha last month but were overpowered as government troops consolidated their grip on the area, inching a few kilometres (miles) north and east.
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