New wave of US air raids on Al-Qaeda in Yemen

A man walks past a building destroyed by recent Saudi-led air strikes in the northwestern city of Saada, Yemen on Feb 22, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

ADEN (AFP) - The United States on Sunday (March 5) launched a new wave of air raids against Al-Qaeda in Yemen, as militants fled from towns being targeted to mountainous areas, security sources said.

At least five early morning raids hit targets linked to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in the southern Shabwa and central Baida provinces, security sources told AFP.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Among the areas from which the radical group pulled its operatives is the Baida town of Ghail, where top AQAP commander Abdulelah al-Dhahab has reportedly been holed up, the sources said.

Suspected AQAP gunmen meanwhile killed five soldiers at a checkpoint in the southern province of Abyan, which has itself been hit by air strikes in recent days, security sources and medics there said.

Since Thursday, Washington, which regards AQAP as the jihadist network's most dangerous branch, has stepped up its air and drone strikes on Yemeni provinces including Baida, Shabwa and Abyan.

The Pentagon on Friday confirmed it had carried out more than 30 strikes against AQAP, conducted in partnership with the Yemeni government.

Local officials and tribal sources told AFP that at least 20 jihadists were killed on Thursday and Friday.

The bombing campaign comes after a botched Jan 29 raid against AQAP left multiple civilians and a US Navy Seal dead in the first military strike ordered by President Donald Trump.

Al-Qaeda has exploited a power vacuum created by two years of war between Yemen's government and Shi'ite rebels who control the capital to consolidate its presence, particularly in the south and east.

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