Middle East

Drone strike kills 15 militants in south Yemen

SANAA: A drone strike Wednesday killed 15 Al-Qaeda-linked militants in their training camp in the south of the country, Yemeni military officials said.

The airstrike resembled earlier U.S. drone attacks, but the U.S. did not comment. The officials said the airstrike targeted the militants’ camp north of the town of Jaar in the southern province of Abyan.

Monday, 17 Al-Qaeda militants were killed in a two-pronged attack by military units and civilians who took up arms against Al-Qaeda south of the town of Lawder. Two civilians and a military officer were also killed in the fighting.

For several weeks, the Yemeni military has been on the attack against Al-Qaeda, after a year during which the militants were largely unopposed in their takeover of cities and towns in the south. This came while Yemen was preoccupied with an internal power struggle, set off by huge demonstrations against longtime ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh that eventually led to his resignation in February.

The new government of President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi has made fighting Al-Qaeda a top priority, but his drive has been hindered by resistance from cronies of Saleh, who are hanging on to key military posts and refusing to step down.

Saleh was long considered a U.S. ally in the battle against Al-Qaeda, but eventually Washington joined the chorus of opponents demanding that Saleh hand over power. The U.S. has been active against the militants for years, tracking and striking Al-Qaeda operatives with missiles.

U.S. officials usually don’t comment on airstrikes like Wednesday’s, but White House counterterrorism official John Brennan acknowledged Monday that the U.S. carries out attacks using unmanned drone against specific Al-Qaeda terrorists, with the cooperation of a local government.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 03, 2012, on page 9.

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