US air strike kills senior Al-Qaida leader in Yemen

A US air strike in Yemen has killed a regional Al-Qaida senior operative, the Pentagon said Friday.

The January 8 strike in the central province of Baida killed Abd Al Gani Al Rasas of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said.

“This strike removes an AQAP senior leader and facilitator in the area and will disrupt AQAP’s terrorism operations in Yemen and the region,” he said in a statement.

In December, the US military said its air strikes have killed 28 Al-Qaida militants in Yemen since September.

Central Command said in a statement that the air strikes took place between September 23 and December 13.

Army Maj. Josh T. Jacques, a spokesman, said the strikes “pressure the terrorist network and hinder their ability to attack the US and our allies.”

AQAP and Daesh have exploited a power vacuum created by a conflict between the government and Iran-backed Al Houthi militants, in order to expand their presence in Yemen, especially in the south and southeast.

US operations against AQAP in Yemen are separate from a Saudi-led coalition campaign against Al Houthis.

But Saudi Arabia and the UAE are heavily involved in anti-terrorist operations against both Al-Qaida and Daesh.

In December, a bomb killed at leat 20 soldiers and wounded around 30 more at a military camp in Yemen’s southern city of Aden, where militants have been active in the past, security sources said.

The explosion came as hundreds of troops gathered to receive their monthly pay at the barracks in Al Sawlaban near the city’s international airport, they said.

Daesh claimed the attack in Aden, which is under the control of the internationally-recognised government.

Saudi Arabia stepped into Yemen’s civil war in March 2015 to fight Iran-backed Al Houthi militants and to help restore the legitimate government of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

In March earlier this year, pair of suicide bombers killed at least 45 people in Aden. Daesh also claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The bombers targeted young men seeking to join the army.

A campaign, backed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, was then launched to oust Al-Qaida from bastions it had carved out in the Hadramout, Abyan and Lahej provinces in Yemen’s south.

On April 24, Yemeni troops backed by coalition forces, successfully booted the terrorist group from Al Mukalla, the capital of Hadramout.

UAE military officers have trained thousands of young people who participated in many massive military operations that pushed rebel fighters and Al-Qaida militants out of major cities in Southern Yemen.

Yemeni forces later went on to liberate other provinces.

Al-Qaida and Daesh militants have carried out sporadic guerilla attacks on Yemeni forces since their major defeat.