Pentagon says more than 120 air strikes in Yemen in 2017

Washington: The US forces have conducted multiple ground operations and more than 120 air strikes against terror groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS in Yemen in 2017, under a long-running campaign, the Pentagon has said.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, is one of the terrorist groups most committed to and capable of conducting attacks in America, as assessed by the intelligence and defence communities, while intelligence estimates indicate that ISIS-Yemen has doubled in size over the past year.

“The removal of key facilitators in this region will interrupt AQAP’s freedom of movement and likely force the group into a reactionary posture, limiting their ability to challenge Yemeni Security Forces and partnered advances,” said Lt Col Earl Brown, a spokesman of US Central Command (CENTCOM).

“US forces also expanded counter terrorism operations in October to encompass both AQAP and ISIS. This parallel targeting effort is required to prevent ISIS-Y from filling the vacuum left by a diminished AQAP footprint or influence in the region,” Brown said as CENTCOM released its year end assessment of the fight against terrorism in Yemen.

In November, the US conducted 10 strikes across Yemen governorates al-Bayda, and Marib, including a strike on Mujahid al-Adani, AQAP Shabwah leader. He was killed on November 20 in al-Bayda governorate.

Al-Adani, also known as Mohammad Shukri, was a senior leader responsible for planning and conducting terrorist attacks against Yemeni, coalition and tribal security forces.

He exerted significant influence within AQAP’s terrorist attack networks, similarly, maintained close ties and access to the group’s other senior leaders.

Al-Bayda AQAP facilitator Abu Layth al-Sanaani and three AQAP associates were also killed in the November 20 strike.

Ruwahah al-Sanaani, also an AQAP facilitator, was killed on November 2 in Marib governorate. On October 19, a strike killed Ubaydah al-Lawdari, the Emir of Lawdar, and four associates in al-Bayda governorate.

Al-Lawdari had been known to provide equipment and money in support of AQAP attacks against coalition forces, posing an increased threat to US interests.

Meanwhile, a series of strikes against two ISIS terror training camps in al-Bayda in October 16 killed more than 50 ISIS-Y combatants, disrupting the organisation’s attempts to recruit and train new fighters.

According to CENTCOM, ongoing operations pressuring the network have also degraded AQAP’s propaganda production, reducing one of the methods for the terror group to recruit and inspire lone wolf attacks across the globe.

The al-Masra Newsletter, previously published three times a month, has not been published since July.

Al-Malahim Establishment for Media Production, which produces AQAP’s terrorist-inspiring video series, as well as Inspire Magazine, saw a large drop in October.

Unable to produce video series and graphic terror- inspiring magazines, AQAP has resorted to using low-tech audio messages, CENTCOM said.

“US forces have enabled regional counterterrorism partners to regain territory from these terrorists – forcing them to spend more time on survival,” said Brown.

“These operations have helped to illuminate terrorist networks, making intelligence-gathering, subsequent targeting and follow-on operations increasingly productive and effective,” he added.

“Every strike, every raid and every partnered operation advance the defeat of these violent extremist organisations. US forces will continue to use all effective measures to degrade the groups’ ability to export terror,” Brown said.