US air strike kills 3 Al Qaida operatives in Yemen

US air strike kills 3 Al Qaida operatives in Yemen

Terror group’s local affiliate remains among the top terrorism threats to the US and it continues to release propaganda advocating attacks against the US

Dubai: Yemeni tribal and security officials say a suspected US air strike has killed three Al Qaida operatives, including the brother of the late leader of the global terror network’s Yemeni affiliate.

They say Thursday’s air strike in the southern province of Bayda killed Khattab Al Wuhayshi, the brother of Nasir Al Wuhayshi, who was killed in a US drone strike nearly two years ago.

Nasir Al Wuhayshi was succeeded by Qasim Al Rimi, who currently leads the group, known as Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap). The group has attempted to attack the US homeland on a number of occasions, and Washington has long considered it the most dangerous offshoot of the terror network.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared reprisals.

The strikes come amid deepening US involvement in Yemen, with escalating counterterrorism strikes targeting an Al Qaida affiliate that’s gained ground amid the chaos of the country’s civil war.

Aqap has taken advantage of more than two years of fighting between Iran-backed Al Houthi rebels and President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government, which is backed by Saudi Arabia.

Aqap remains among the top terrorism threats to the US and it continues to release propaganda advocating attacks against the US and has captured much weaponry — mostly from the Yemeni government — since the war broke out. That includes light antiaircraft weapons and possibly manpads — portable air-defence systems — said the defence official, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of ongoing operations.

Though there are gaps in the US understanding of the group after US officials pulled out of Yemen amid the violence, the official said that Aqap’s members are estimated to be in the “low thousands,” made up predominantly of local Yemenis.

Currently, Aqap has retreated deep into ungoverned provinces after being driven out of the port city of Al Mukalla, which it had seized.

Although attention in the fight against terrorism by the US and allies has focused on Daesh militants in Iraq and Syria, Aqap is the organisation that has more American blood on its hands. The Al Qaida affiliate has orchestrated numerous high-profile terrorist attacks, including the failed “underwear bomber” attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight bound for Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009.

The group claimed responsibility for the attack on the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris in 2015, in which gunmen killed 12 people.