The US military under the command of Donald Trump has carried out 70 airstrikes on Yemen in the last month - more than twice the number for all of 2016.
Underscoring what appears to be a major build up of the US’s involvement in the fight against Al-Qaeda militants in the country, the Pentagon said this week it had carried out roughly 20 strikes in the past week. That brought the monthly total to 70. More than 30 Yemeni civilians were reportedly killed in a raid by US special forces earlier this year, the first operation with Mr Trump as commander-in-chief.
“We continue to target Al-Qaeda in Yemen, and this is done in the interest of disrupting this terror organisation that presents a very significant threat to the United States,” said Pentagon spokesman Capt Jeff Davis.
This is nearly twice as many as during all of 2016, and of any other year. https://t.co/qvDpCoQEvW— Ben Hubbard (@NYTBen) April 4, 2017
He said the strikes were targeting Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Yemeni branch that is said to be militant group’s most lethal branch.
“Since February 28, we’ve conducted more than 70 precision airstrikes against AQAP militants’ infrastructure, fighting positions and equipment.”
Experts said the number of strikes in the last month represented double the total for all of 2016. The strikes were largely carried out by drones and targeted fighters, infrastructure, fighting positions and equipment, Mr Davis said.
The organisation rose to prominence in 2009 and has taken advantage of the 2-year-old civil war between Yemen’s Saudi-backed government forces which also the support of Washington, and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels to carve out territory to train its fighters.
Stars and Stripes said the group claimed responsibility for the 2009 Christmas Day attempted underwear bombing of a commercial airliner in Detroit and later for the 2015 attack on French satirist newspaper Charlie Hebdo that killed 12 in Paris.
It boasts some 4,000 militants in Abyan, Bayda and Shabwah governances in the center of southern Yemen, according to defence officials.