Press TV- The Pentagon has carried out its first major military operation in Yemen since a botched raid in January that killed women and children as well as an American commando.
US forces conducted more than 20 airstrikes involving a mix of manned and unmanned aircraft early on Thursday, the Pentagon said.
Navy Captain Jeff Davis said the airstrikes targeted al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in three south-central provinces of Abyan, Shabwah and al-Bayda.
“The strikes will 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,” the Pentagon spokesman said.
The US military did not share a casualty estimate, but local officials said at least nine suspected al-Qaeda militants were killed.
Davis said the operation was coordinated with resigned president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a strong ally of Saudi Arabia that has been engaged in its own military campaign against Yemen.
Troops engage al-Qaeda on the ground
Military helicopters and drones launched a flurry of fresh airstrikes in Shabwah province early on Friday, witnesses said, according to Reuters.
The raids targeted the residence of Sa’ad Atef, an al-Qaeda leader, as well as other suspected militant positions in the area.
The unidentified aircraft, believed to be American, also deployed troops to the al-Saeed area of the southern province, who engaged suspected al-Qaeda militants on the ground for nearly half an hour.
The military operations came more than a month since a January 29 raid, the first of its kind authorized by President Donald Trump, in al-Bayda which residents said left as many as 25 civilians dead.
An ongoing investigation by the US Central Command has also determined that civilians, including possibly children, lost their lives during the botched raid.
The White House hailed the operation as a success, but critics said it was a failure since it resulted in the death of civilians and 36-year-old Navy SEAL Ryan Owens.
Three other Americans were also wounded in the Navy SEAL Team Six mission and a military aircraft worth $75 million was destroyed after it crash-landed at the raid site.
Trump blames generals for botched raid
President Trump has tried to distance himself from the raid by emphasizing that the operation had been in the works long before he took office. “This was a mission that was started before I got here,” he said in an interview with Fox News this week.
“This was something that, you know, they wanted to do. They came to see me and they explained what they wanted to do, the generals, who are very respected,” the president said. “And they lost Ryan.”
During his address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, Trump paid tribute to the fallen SEAL, and insisted that the operation yielded valuable intelligence that would “lead to many more victories in the future.”
Some US officials, however, have disputed that claim, saying the raid gathered little, if any, workable intelligence.
The United States conducts drone strikes in Yemen and several countries. Washington claims the airstrikes target members of al-Qaeda and other militants, but according to local officials and witnesses, civilians have been the victims of the attacks in many cases.
Al-Qaeda in Yemen has grown in weapons and number since the start of the Saudi military campaign in March 2015, which was launched to bring back Hadi to power and undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement.