Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Yemen: U.S. drone strikes kill 11 al-Qaida militants

SANA, Yemen — Two suspected U.S. drone strikes killed 11 al-Qaida militants in southern Yemen on Saturday, Yemeni military officials said.

The first attack took place near the border of Marib and Shabwa provinces southeast of the capital, Sana, killing six militants, including one Egyptian national, the officials said. The second strike hit two cars in Marib, killing five al-Qaida-linked fighters.

Over the past year, parts of Marib, Shabwa and other southern provinces have fallen under the control of al-Qaida militants who have capitalized on the turmoil in Yemen that stems from the popular uprising that toppled longtime leader Ali Abdullah Saleh.

There was no immediate word from the United States on whether Washington was behind Saturday's attacks. In the past two weeks, suspected U.S. airstrikes have killed at least three senior al-Qaida operatives in southern Yemen.

Yemeni officials have reported more frequent U.S. drone strikes since President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi took power in February after Saleh stepped down. Hadi has since ramped up the fight against al-Qaida militants.

The Pentagon recently sent American military trainers to Yemen, and Washington has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to help the impoverished Arab nation fight al-Qaida and other extremist groups in the country.

The United States says al-Qaida's Yemeni branch, known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, is one of the group's most dangerous offshoots.

Yemen was the launching pad for two foiled al-Qaida attacks on U.S. territory: the Christmas 2009 attempt to down an American airliner over Detroit with an underwear bomb and the sending of printer cartridges packed with explosives to Chicago-area synagogues in 2010.

On Monday, the Associated Press reported that the CIA thwarted yet another plot by the al-Qaida branch to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner using a bomb that could have been undetectable by conventional airport scanners.

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