London, Washington- Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the organization’s branch in Yemen, received on Thursday the biggest hit since U.S. President Donald Trump assumed power early this year.
The Pentagon confirmed its forces conducted more than 20 airstrikes in three Yemeni provinces overnight in partnership with the Yemeni government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.
“US forces conducted a series of precision strikes in Yemen against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, in the early morning of March 2 (Yemen time). More than 20 strikes targeted AQAP militants, equipment and infrastructure in the Yemeni governorates of Abyan, al-Baida and Shabwah,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said in a statement issued Thursday.
The strikes killed at least 12 suspected al-Qaeda members in Yemen today, security officials told AFP.
Davis said the strikes were conducted in coordination with Hadi’s government.
“The Government of Yemen is a valuable counter-terrorism partner, and we support its efforts to bring stability to the region by fighting known terrorist organizations like AQAP,” he said.
Thursday’s operation is the first of its kind since the Jan. 28 attack launched by the US elite forces in Yemen’s Yakla district of al-Baida province and which killed dozens of al-Qaeda armed members in addition to children, women and a US soldier.
Davis said Thursday’s strikes would 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.
Another Pentagon spokesman Christopher Sherwood told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Until now, no high-ranking officials are believed to be among the casualties. But, things might change after identifying the bodies.”
Baraa Shiban, the Yemen project coordinator for the international human rights NGO Reprieve also told the newspaper: “It is clear that the new US administration plans to escalate its operations against al-Qaeda, and it wants to show the American public it is serious in this regard.”