A US air strike has killed a regional Al-Qaeda leader and two associates in Yemen’s Shabwa province, a jihadist stronghold in the south, the Pentagon said today. Abu Khattab al-Awlaqi was emir for Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Shabwa, responsible for planning and conducting attacks against civilians, the US military’s Central Command said in a statement. Washington considers Al-Qaeda’s Yemen-based branch to be its most dangerous and has conducted a long-running drone war against its leaders.
The aim of the June 16 strike was to “disrupt terrorist compounds, and attack networks in Yemen,” the statement read. The day after the strike, a Yemeni security official said it was conducted by drone, and had hit a vehicle in Saeed district, killing the driver and both passengers. President Donald Trump has given commanders greater leeway to conduct raids and strikes in Yemen, and the war-torn country has seen a quickening tempo of operations against Al- Qaeda.
For more than two years, Yemen has been locked in a devastating civil war between the Saudi-backed government and Shiite rebels who control the capital. Al-Qaeda has taken advantage of the conflict to expand its presence in several areas of southern and eastern Yemen under the nominal control of the government and its allies in a Saudi-led military coalition.