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9 US airstrikes in Yemen killed more than 100 al-Qaida fighters in 2016

Traditional architecture in the Wadi Hadramaut region of Yemen is seen in 2003. The U.S. military conducted nine airstrikes against al-Qaida militants in Yemen so far in 2016, killing 108 operatives, officials said on Friday, June 3, 2016.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

By COREY DICKSTEIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 3, 2016

WASHINGTON — The United States military has conducted nine airstrikes against al-Qaida militants in Yemen this year, killing 108 operatives, a Central Command spokesman said Friday.

The counterterrorism strikes targeted operatives with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula group, but did not kill any high-value targets, said Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder, CENTCOM spokesman.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, has exploited the chaos in Yemen, where Houthi rebels are battling a Saudi-led coalition that supports the UN-recognized government to gain territory in the country’s central and eastern regions during the last year.

AQAP is a growing and significant threat that aims to harm the United States, Ryder told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday.

“Al-Qaida’s presence has a destabilizing effect on Yemen, and it is using the unrest in Yemen to provide a haven from which to plan future attacks against our allies as well as the U.S. and its interests.”

The U.S. in recent months has increased its operations against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, sending ships and a special operations intelligence team to the country to advise Emirati and Arab forces fighting the militants.

Four of the strikes announced Friday had not been disclosed to the public. Those strikes occurred between Feb. 3 and May 19 and killed 15. The most recent, on May 19, killed four militants in the Shabwa Governorate area in central Yemen, Ryder said.

He said Central Command has committed to providing more timely updates about strikes in Yemen, but, he added, the command had reasons not to immediately announce these strikes.

“We have to balance a few things … such as not wanting to let our adversaries know specifically where those strikes are coming from or the intelligence we can collect post-strike,” Ryder said. “Sometimes the chatter that comes after a strike allows us to collect more intelligence on adversaries to conduct future strikes.”

dickstein.corey@stripes.com
Twitter: @CDicksteinDC

 

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