US Special Forces killed seven al-Qaeda militants during an intelligence-gathering raid against their compound in Yemen on Tuesday morning, US officials said.
US Central Command said in a statement the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants were killed “through a combination of small-arms fire and precision air strikes” in the Marib governorate, with the support of the Yemeni government.
“Raids such as this provide insight into AQAP’s disposition, capabilities and intentions, which will allow us to continue to pursue, disrupt, and degrade AQAP,” the statement said.
Two US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters separately that there were no known US casualties and the raid was carried out 40-45 km (25-30 miles) north of another US raid that took place in late January.
One of the US officials said there were no immediate reports of civilian casualties in the raid.
According to Yemeni officials, the raid took place in the al-Sirim area in Marib in the early morning hours. Tribal members said explosions were heard in al-Sirim, followed by helicopters and gunfire.
Helicopters landed in the outskirts of the town of Jouba near al-Sirim, which is known as one of al-Qaeda’s hideouts and which has been targeted by a series of airstrikes in the past month that reportedly killed six al-Qaeda militants.
According to the officials, there was also bombing in nearby Bayda province. The officials and the tribesmen spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to talk to reporters. They also did not have any specifics on casualties.
The January operation, the first of its kind authorized by US President Donald Trump, was hailed as a success by the White House and other US officials.
However, critics questioned the value of the mission after a US Navy Seal was killed. Women and children, as well as several militants, were also killed in the raid.
Over 75 US airstrikes carried out since the beginning of the year have reflected an almost double increase in the yearly totals since the drone program against al-Qaeda in Yemen began in 2009, according to analysts.
The group boasts one of the world’s most feared bomb makers, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, and AQAP has been a persistent concern to the US government since a 2009 attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day.
The militant group has also taken advantage of a civil war pitting the Iran-aligned Houthis against the 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.