ADEN, WASHINGTON: Military forces believed to be American launched two attacks on suspected Al Qaida targets in Southern Yemen early on Friday in what would be the second consecutive day of US raids witnesses said.
Backed by drones and Apache helicopter, the troops descended on the Wadi Yashbum village in Shabwa province after midnight and engaged suspected Al Qaida militants in a battle that lasted nearly half an hour, the residents said.
One of the targets was the home of Saad Atef, an Al Qaida leader in the area.
The assault included about 10 to 15 air strikes, some of which hit civilian homes, the residents said. A number of civilians were among the wounded, they added.
Fragments from the strikes hit the home of local southern leader Naser Al Nouba, who told newspaper Aden Press he was about 100 metres away from the fighting.
About three hours later, residents in the Jabal Mugan area of neighbouring Abyan province also reported strikes by aircraft flying over the area.
Battles between suspected Al Qaida fighters and US soldiers there also lasted about a half-hour, and began again around 5am, they said.
The air strikes comes closely on the heels of a New York Times report that said the White House was considering giving the Pentagon more independent authority to conduct counterterrorism raids as part of an effort to accelerate the fight against the Daesh and other terrorist organisations.
Administration officials said on Thursday that such a step would allow military commanders to move more swiftly against terrorism suspects, streamlining a decision-making process that often dragged on under the Obama administration, frustrating Pentagon officials.
The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, called the proposal “a philosophy more than a change in policy.”
He said that “the protocol is not changing in terms of what has to be signed off,” but added that President Donald Trump believed “these are the experts in the field.”
Critics say that giving the military more authority could lead to more problematic outcomes like the Special Operations raid in January in Yemen, which left a member of the Navy’s SEAL Team 6 dead, as well as about two dozen civilians.
On Thursday, the United States resumed its air attacks on targets in Yemen, conducting strikes against several suspected Al Qaida sites across the south-central part of the country.
The coordinated series of attacks occurred in three Yemeni provinces — Abyan, Shabwa and Baydha — that have been linked to terrorist activity, according to the Pentagon. The strikes were conducted against targets that had been developed before the January raid, a senior official said.
On Monday, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis presented the White House with a series of options for accelerating the fight against Daesh. Pentagon officials say that while much of the proposal would continue what the US was doing under President Barack Obama, Mattis and senior military commanders also want to target Al Qaida and other extremist organisations in the Middle East.
The proposal on counterterrorism raids is the latest step in Trump’s increased reliance on military commanders to run US national security policy.
“We’re at a point now in our nation where general officers have an outsize role in the direction of the country,” said Andrew Exum, a retired Army Ranger and a Defence Department official in the Obama administration.
With inputs from NYT