|US Assists Yemen’s Army in Destroying Al Qaeda|
|Tue, 29 May 2012 13:05|
Air raids, including by US drones, and clashes in Yemen have killed at least 17 Al Qaeda militants and a civilian, officials and tribesmen said yesterday.
Five militants of Al Qaeda were killed when they were hit by a US drone yesterday, a tribal source said.
“A US drone struck a convoy carrying Al Qaeda’s leader in Bayda province, Qaed al-Dahab,” the tribal source said on condition of anonymity, adding that “Dahab survived but 5 of his guards were killed.”
The strike hit the militants as they were travelling in the area of Manaseh, east of the city of Radaa in central Yemen, he said.
Seven other militants, including the local Military Chief in Hadramout, Saleh Abdul Khaleq, were killed in an air raid conducted by Yemeni warplanes in the eastern province, a security official said.
The raid struck the group as they met in a “deserted coastal area” some 60km west of the city of Mukalla, the official said.
Western Diplomats say that US experts are assisting the Yemeni Army in their battle to destroy Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, considered by Washington to be the network’s deadliest and most active branch.
In an interview with ABC television’s This Week, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta defended the use of drones as “the most precise weapons we have” in the campaign against the militant group.
His comments marked the first time the US has formally acknowledged the use of unmanned drones against Al Qaeda suspects in Yemen.
Five other Al Qaeda fighters and a civilian were killed in overnight clashes as Yemeni troops inched closer to capturing the city of Jaar, a bastion of the militant group in the war torn southern province of Abyan, a military official said.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a “mid-level Commander” of the militant group, Abdul Rahman al-Musallami, was one of the 5 Al Qaeda operatives killed in the clashes.
A local official in Jaar confirmed this toll and said the bodies of the five militants were taken to the city for burial.
The military official said that Yemeni troops had advanced towards Jaar and were surrounding the city from three sides.
Yemeni troops advanced to “about 3km of Jaar”, and have “surrounded the city from the north, the east and the west”, he said.
He said the overnight assault on Al Qaeda positions in and around Jaar involved both ground troops and Yemeni air force. “We are tightening the noose around Al Qaeda,” he added.
The army also made strides in their advances on Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan that fell to the militants in May 2011, he said, but gave no further details.
Yemeni Forces launched an all-out offensive on May 12 this year to capture Al Qaeda-controlled areas in Abyan.
Source: Gulf Times