The United States conducted more than 20 airstrikes Thursday in Yemen targeting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants, in what appeared to be the first USA military operation against the group since the January special operations raid that saw a Navy SEAL killed.
The U.S. aircraft targeted "militants, equipment, infrastructure, heavy weapons systems and fighting positions" of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Defense Department spokesman.
Al-Qaeda has always been the dominant militant force in Yemen, located next to oil-flush Saudi Arabia and key shipping lanes, but experts say IS is seeking to supplant its extremist rival.
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The official insisted the raid was worth the risk because AQAP has a history of plotting, inspiring, and exporting terror to America and the West, and because the USA has no military presence on the ground, the Examiner reported.
A week later, at least 30 people were killed in a USA commando dawn raid in southern Yemen, including at least 10 women and children, in the first such military operation authorised by President Donald Trump. US forces will continue to work with the Government of Yemen to defeat AQAP and deny it the ability to operate in Yemen. Innocent civilians were killed in the raid, the Pentagon indicated, emphasizing the women in the compound who took up arms against the SEALs. An NBC News report Monday said that USA intelligence officials said the raid produced no real actionable intelligence.
"We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of a U.S. Navy special operator, Senior Chief William "Ryan" Owens".
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But the militant group has exploited a power vacuum created by two years of war between Yemen's Saudi-backed government and rebels who control the capital to consolidate its presence, particularly in the south and east.
The United States has been waging an air campaign against al-Qaida in Yemen for well over a decade, and has killed a number of senior militants in drone strikes, most recently in 2015, when the group's top leader was killed in the southern city of Mukalla.
In his speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, President Trump affirmed that the mission had successfully obtained "vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemy".
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