U.S. Central Command reported Tuesday that Navy SEALs killed seven al-Qaeda militants in a raid on a compound in Yemen. Two American operatives were slightly injured in the operation. SEAL members managed to leave the scene of the operation without any major injuries or deaths. The operation was carried out with the support of Yemen’s government.
In a statement released Tuesday, CENTCOM hailed the raid as a success, saying "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.
According to Pentagon spokesman U.S. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, the targeted compound belonged to AQAP, or al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The compound was being used by the terrorist group "as a headquarters, a place to meet and plan for external operations.”
Davis added that AQAP were struck off-guard when U.S. operatives raided the compound. The Islamist militants were "likely not expecting us," said Davis. The fact that the operation took place so deep into Yemeni territory provided an element of surprise. This was the "deepest we've ever gone into Yemen to fight AQAP," he noted.
Not only did U.S. operatives eliminate terrorists off the battlefield, they seemingly did so without civilian casualties. Nonetheless, “U.S. forces were forced to call in an AC-130 gunship for air support when a firefight began,” notes CNN, citing Davis.
There are "no credible indications of civilian casualties," asserted Davis.
The latest raid comes less than four months after the controversial ground mission against al-Qaeda in Yemen that left SEAL member William "Ryan" Owens dead. The mission also took the lives of 20 civilians. There were some successful elements to the mission, however. Navy SEALs managed to kill 14 al-Qaeda militants and obtain actionable intelligence, despite premature media reports suggesting otherwise.
Yemen has been a hotspot for al-Qaeda over the last few years. In fact, al-Qaeda’s chief terrorism planner, recruiter, and propagandist, the infamous Anwar al-Awlaki, was killed by an American hellfire missile drone strike in 2011.
Despite the ill-fated decision to take military assets out of Iraq and steer clear of the exponentially lethal war in Syria, the Obama administration paid special attention to Yemen, ordering innumerable drone strikes against al-Qaeda militants and their command centers.
And yet, the Obama administration’s goal of degrading AQAP was undermined by President Obama's own decision to release high-risk al-Qaeda operatives from Guantanamo Bay. Some of the detainees have reappeared on the battlefield. Others have fled from their host countries to Yemen, where al-Qaeda’s recruiting and communications network remains functional.
In 2014, civil war and chaos caused by the overthrow of the Saudi-backed government in Sanaa by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels created a toxic power vacuum that jihadists have been exploiting ever since.
Increased activity of Islamist militants in post-2014 Yemen has prompted the United States to respond with even more force.
“The U.S. has conducted more than 80 airstrikes against AQAP in Yemen since February,” reports CNN.