US commando dies in raid on Al-Qaeda in Yemen

The Pentagon on Sunday confirmed the death of a US service member in a raid in Yemen targeting Al-Qaeda, marking the first American combat death under the administration of US President Donald Trump. VIDEO: REUTERS

SANAA/WASHINGTON • A US commando died and three others were wounded carrying out a dawn raid on the Al-Qaeda militant group in southern Yemen, in the first military operation authorised by President Donald Trump.

The US military said it killed 14 militants in a raid on a powerful Al-Qaeda branch that has been a frequent target of US drone strikes.

Medics on the scene, however, said that around 30 people, including 10 women and children, were killed in Sunday's raid.

Two more US servicemen were injured when an American military aircraft sent to evacuate the wounded commandos came under fire and had to be "intentionally destroyed in place", the Pentagon said.

The new US President called the operation a success and said intelligence gathered during the operation would help the United States fight terrorism.

"Americans are saddened this morning with news that the life of a heroic service member has been taken in our fight against the evil of radical Islamic terrorism," Mr Trump said in a statement.

The gun battle in the rural Yakla district of al-Bayda province killed a senior leader in Yemen's Al-Qaeda branch, Abdulraoof al-Dhahab, along with other militants, Al-Qaeda said.

The eight-year-old daughter of US-born Yemeni preacher and Al-Qaeda ideologue Anwar al-Awlaki was among the children killed in the raid, according to her grandfather.

Her father was killed in a US drone strike in 2011.

"She was hit with a bullet in her neck and suffered for two hours," Dr Nasser al-Awlaki told Reuters. "Why kill children? This is the new (US) administration - it's very sad, a big crime."

In a statement, the Pentagon did not refer to any civilian casualties, although a US military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they could not be ruled out.

The Defence Department said the raid netted "information that will likely provide insight into the planning of future terror plots".

The American elite forces did not seize any militants or take any prisoners off-site, the official said, adding that the group had come under fire.

The Pentagon did not say how the team's one death occurred and the US military official declined to give details on the fatality.

The operation's goal was to gather intelligence on Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is regarded as one of the global militant group's most dangerous branches, the official said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 31, 2017, with the headline 'US commando dies in raid on Al-Qaeda in Yemen'. Print Edition | Subscribe