At least seven people have lost their lives in a US ground and aerial operation in Yemen’s central province of Ma’rib, the Pentagon says.
Centcom, the US military command in the Middle East, said in a statement that the Tuesday raid had been carried out with the support of the former Yemeni government and had targeted a compound belonging to the al-Qaeda militant group.
“During this operation, US forces killed seven AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) militants through a combination of small arms fire and precision airstrikes,” the statement read.
It said that such assaults “provide insight into AQAP’s disposition, capabilities and intentions,” apparently referring to intelligence that may be obtained as a result of the raids.
On January 29, a similar US attack was conducted in Yakla Village in Bayda Province, the first authorized by President Donald Trump. A $75-million US aircraft was destroyed while dozens of Yemeni civilians and a US Navy SEAL were killed in the ill-prepared commando raid.
The Pentagon claimed that the attack had produced intelligence about al-Qaeda. However, senior US officials rejected the claim, saying that they were not aware of any actionable intelligence.
Yemen has been under regular US drone strikes, with Washington claiming to be targeting al-Qaeda elements while local sources say civilians have been the main victims.
Yemen has also been under military strikes in a prolonged war by Saudi Arabia and a number of its client states since late March 2015. The US has been providing assistance to that war, too.
UN envoy seeks to prevent any attack on crucial port city
On Monday, the United Nations' Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed traveled to Yemen, where he said he wanted to prevent any attack on the western port city of Hudaydah, which is a major lifeline for imports into Yemen.
Saudi Arabia has threatened to attack the port city and retake it from the Houthi Ansarullah movement, a popular movement that has teamed up with the Yemeni army to defend the country against the Saudi-led war.
Cheikh Ahmed also stressed that Yemen’s central bank “must remain independent and must belong to all the Yemeni people.”
He further voiced concern about the dire humanitarian situation, saying, “You all know that the cholera epidemic has increased, reaching more than 25,000 cases and there have been many deaths in less than two weeks.”
The UN envoy’s visit to Yemen was met with protests as some 200 people marched from the UN headquarters in Sana’a to the city’s airport.
The demonstrators pelted Ahmed’s motorcade with rocks, shoes, and eggs as the Mauritanian diplomat was leaving the Sana’a Airport. His bodyguards fired into the air to disperse the crowd.
The Yemeni protesters carried banners, reading “Lift the blockade of Sana’a Airport.” The airport has been closed to commercial flights since August 2016, after the Riyadh regime imposed an air embargo on it.
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