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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. official suggested Thursday’s strikes – which included use of U.S. drones and manned aircraft – had been in the planning stages before the January raid.
The U.S. 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.