US bombs al-Qaeda, as diplomatic efforts in Yemen falter
Sana’a - Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which mostly operates in the southern and central Yemen, was attacked in the first commando operation authorised by US President Donald Trump.
In a dawn raid January 29th, US commandos launched an operation in central Yemen that targeted the home of a high-ranking al-Qaeda leader and that also served as an intelligence-gathering mission, the Pentagon said.
A firefight resulted in the killing of 14 suspected terrorists as well as the death of a US Navy SEAL. Several other US servicemen were injured. Local media reported that there were several of non-combatant deaths, including ten women and children, which the United States says it is investigating.
A statement by AQAP said senior AQAP leader Abdulraouf al-Zahab and other members were killed in the raid.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer would not confirm reports that the 8-year-old daughter of US-born al-Qaeda ideologue Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a US drone attack in 2011, was among the civilian casualties.
Although it was the first US military raid approved by Trump, planning began during the Obama administration, CNN reported, and included military support from the United Arab Emirates.
The Yemeni branch of al- Qaeda has been linked to high-profile international terrorist operations, including the November 2009 Fort Hood, Texas, shooting and the January 2015 attack on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris.
As the death toll in Yemen conflict surpassed the 10,000 mark, efforts led by UN Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed to end the almost 2-year war seem to be going nowhere.
The Iran-allied Houthi rebels launched a missile at a UN building in Saudi Arabia near the Yemeni border. A Saudi soldier was wounded when the De-escalation and Coordination Committee building in south Dhahran was attacked January 30th, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.
“It is especially tragic that this attack took place at a point in time where we are calling for a restoration of the cessation of hostilities,” said Ould Cheikh Ahmed.
“It is of the interest of both parties in the conflict to commit to the rapid resumption of a long-lasting cessation of hostilities in the coming days and weeks. The improvement in the security situation will open space for renewed dialogue,” he added.
Noting that the building attacked was supposed to host the committee that would oversee any ceasefire and report on violations, Ould Cheikh Ahmed said: “The United Nations maintains a regular presence in this building and this incident is not a sign of good faith.”
Official Yemeni sources said Ould Cheikh Ahmed has given Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi a copy of the amended plan to resolve the conflict. The new plan includes a fundamental change in Hadi’s status, including the continuation of his powers after the signing of a political agreement.
“President Hadi continues to criticise the proposals without agreeing to discuss them and this will hinder and impede the path towards peace,” Ould Cheikh Ahmed said on January 26th.
In another development, the Houthis were suspected of crashing suicide boats into a Saudi warship, killing two crewmen, on January 30th.
“A Saudi frigate on patrol west of Hodeidah port came under attack from three suicide boats belonging to the Houthi militias,” a statement by Saudi Defence Ministry said.
The Iran-allied rebels denied the suicide mission and attributed the destruction of the vessel to a guided missile.
The UAE summoned Iran’s chargé d’affaires in Abu Dhabi on February 2nd and filed a formal complaint over what it described as Tehran’s “illegal arming” of the rebels. “Iranian weapons, including unmanned drones targeted recently by the Arab coalition, represent a flagrant violation” of UN Security Council resolutions,” the UAE said.
The war in Yemen began when Shia Houthis and their allies overran Sana’a in September 2014, seizing most of the country. A Saudi-led Arab coalition, supported by the United States and Britain, began an air campaign against the rebels in March 2015. Arab coalition ground troops later entered the fight.