Yemen raid yielded 'valuable intelligence,' U.S. official says

At least four militants were killed in U.S. air strikes on Al Qaeda in Yemen on Thursday, including in the same province where American forces carried out a ground raid against the extremists in late January.

Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said the precision strikes were carried out in the Yemeni governorates of Abyan, Al Bayda and Shabwah, in "partnership" with Yemen's government.

The militants overran Shaqra early last month just days after the January 29 United States raid on one of their compounds in Baida province further north that cost the life of a Navy Seal.

Two US officials said al-Masri was killed in an attack directed by the US intelligence community.

The Pentagon said the strikes were meant to degrade AQAP's ability to launch strikes overseas, and to limit their ability to use territory inside Yemen.

Local residents, quoted by AFP news agency, said military forces believed to be USA descended on Wadi Yashbum village early on Friday, backed by drones and Apache helicopters, and fought al-Qaeda militants for almost an hour.

The number of AQAP members has grown and estimated there are a couple thousand, a senior USA official said.

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"U.S. forces will continue to target AQAP militants and facilities in order to disrupt the terrorist organization's plots, and ultimately to protect American lives", Davis said, adding that the group is at least as worrying as the Islamic State group that the USA has been attacking with daily airstrikes in Iraq and Syria for more than two years.

US military officials were not immediately available for comment.

The Pentagon said it had carried out more than 20 strikes on Thursday targeting Al-Qaeda positions in the southern provinces of Shabwa and Abyan and the central province of Baida.

"We have a lot of gaps in our understanding of the organization", a USA defense official said, adding the pullout of USA personnel two years ago "certainly did not help our understanding of the situation". President Donald Trump told Congress on Tuesday that the raid yielded valuable intelligence that "will lead to many more victories in the future".

Masri, also known as Abdullah Muhammad Rajab Abdulrahman, was the son-in-law of Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and a member of Al-Qaeda's shura council. Six American soldiers were wounded and a military aircraft had to be destroyed after a hard landing.

Owens's father has described the mission as "stupid", and declined to meet Trump.

  • Alfonso Moody