U.S. drones, jets kill 8 fighters linked to al-Qaida in Yemen
Strikes are part of military’s expanded air war in country.
American drones and fighter jets hit suspected al-Qaida-affiliated militants in southern Yemen early Thursday, killing at least eight fighters sleeping in a police station they had overrun, according to local residents and American and Yemeni security officials.
The strikes were part of an expanded air war in Yemen by the American military aimed at militants who now control large swaths of southern Yemen amid a power struggle in the impoverished desert country.
In recent months, the U.S. has escalated a campaign of airstrikes carried out by the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command with the assistance of the CIA.
The CIA is building a base in the region to serve as a hub for future operations in Yemen.
According to both American and Yemeni officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the attacks in Yemen are rarely acknowledged publicly, the strike on Thursday hit a police station that had been occupied by 20 militant fighters in the town of Al Wadyia, in Abyan Province in southern Yemen. One Yemeni security official said that eight people had been killed, including the gathering’s leader, identified as Hadi Mohammad Ali.
Separately, a person close to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the group responsible for a wave of violence in Yemen and several terrorist plots against the United States, said an American strike on Thursday hit a car thought to be carrying Fahd al-Qusaa, a leader of the group and a suspect in the 2000 bombing of the American destroyer Cole. The person said that Qusaa and a group of aides had left the car moments before the attack, and local residents said he had survived.
American officials did not confirm the attack against Qusaa.
American intelligence officials have said that militants from Yemen and nearby Somalia have built operational ties over the past year as they try to exploit the chaos in both countries.
In Yemen, the power struggle has paralyzed the government and allowed militants to take over entire towns in the south.