WASHINGTON: Seven militants were killed and multiple American troops were wounded during an intelligence-gathering raid by U.S. Special Forces troops against an Al-Qaeda compound in Yemen Tuesday morning, U.S. officials said.
Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters the injuries were not serious enough to require medical evacuation. He declined to say specifically how many troops were injured.
Local tribesmen confirmed a raid in the central Marib governorate, which is controlled by forces loyal to the Western-backed President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi, but said five people were killed and six others were wounded, all from the same extended family, and all civilians.
Davis said that this was the first time the U.S. had carried out a ground raid in the Marib governorate and the deepest the U.S. had gone into Yemen to target Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
It was the latest operation by U.S. forces against AQAP, which has exploited a 2-year-old civil war between the Iran-aligned Houthi and Hadi’s Saudi-backed government to enhance its influence in the impoverished country.
U.S. Central Command said in a statement the AQAP militants were killed “through a combination of small-arms fire and precision airstrikes” in Marib, with the support of the Yemeni government.
“Raids such as this provide insight into AQAP’s disposition, capabilities and intentions, which will allow us to continue to pursue, disrupt and degrade AQAP,” the statement said.
Two U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters separately that there were no known U.S. casualties and the raid was carried out 40-45 km north of another U.S. raid that took place in late January.
One of the U.S. officials said there were no immediate reports of civilian casualties in the raid.
Two sources in Marib said that the attack began with drone strikes at a house in the southern Marib governorate near the border with Bayda governorate, followed by automatic fire from low-flying helicopters.
They said that five members of their Al-Moradi clan, a main tribe in Marib, had died in the operation and six others were wounded, adding that they were all civilians.
The January operation, the first of its kind authorized by U.S. President Donald Trump, was hailed as a success by the White House and other U.S. officials.
However, critics questioned the value of the mission after a U.S. Navy Seal was killed. Women and children, as well as several militants, were also killed in the raid. The U.S. military has carried out more than 80 strikes in Yemen against Al-Qaeda militants since February.
The group boasts one of the world’s most feared bomb makers, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, and AQAP has been a persistent concern to the U.S. government since a 2009 attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day.
The militant group has also taken advantage of a civil war pitting the Houthis against Hadi’s government to try to widen its control and influence in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country, one of the poorest in the Middle East.