ADEN, Yemen/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States carried out another wave of strikes against al Qaeda in Yemen overnight, residents and U.S. officials said on Friday, in the latest sign of increasing U.S. military focus on a group whose strength has grown during Yemen's civil war.
A day after U.S. forces carried out more than 20 air strikes in Yemen, residents reported another U.S. assault in the Wadi Yashbum village in the southern Shabwah province including about 10 to 15 air strikes.
Residents said some of the strikes hit civilian homes and a number of civilians were among the wounded.
About three hours later, residents in the Jabal Mugan area of neighboring Abyan province also reported air strikes.
Residents also cited ground battles involving American soldiers and al Qaeda militants but two U.S. officials told Reuters the latest operations did not involve ground combat.
"None of our troops were involved in a firefight over the last period of darkness," one of the U.S. officials told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The strikes follow a Jan. 29 raid against AQAP by U.S. commandos, an operation that resulted in the death of 14 militants and a Navy SEAL, as well as civilians.
The White House and other U.S. officials have said the mission yielded valuable intelligence but critics questioned its value and effectiveness.
AQAP has been a persistent concern to the U.S. government since an attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009 that was traced back to the militant group.
It has exploited a civil war in which the Iran-aligned Houthi movement is fighting the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, which is backed by U.S.-aligned Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies.
The war has killed more than 10,000 people and put millions of people, including half a million children under age 5, on the brink of starvation, U.N. officials say.
The Saudi-led coalition, which benefits from U.S. military assistance, has focused most of its firepower against the Houthis and allied forces loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, but has also targeted some AQAP strongholds.
(By Mohammed Mukhashaf and Phil Stewart; writing by Katie Paul and Phil Stewart; editing by Robin Pomeroy and Bill Trott)