Airstrikes and mortar fire have killed at least 17 al-Qaida militants in
southern Yemen, days after details emerged about a Saudi mole within the
terrorist network whose information helped the U.S. foil a plot by the
group's Yemeni branch.
Security officials in Yemen said Thursday's airstrikes struck the town
of Jaar and northeast of Zinjibar, areas used as a base by al-Qaida in
the Arabian Peninsula.
The first pre-dawn strike killed five militants, including a senior
member of the terror network. Two more insurgents were killed in the
second airstrike, including al-Qaida's deputy commander for Lawder, a
nearby town controlled by the group last year until its residents drove
the militants out.
The United States has been using drones to strike al-Qaida in Yemen.
Yemeni officials said one of the raids was carried out by a drone, but
provided no details on the other. There was no comment from Washington
on whether it was behind the raids.
Later Thursday, Yemeni soldiers shelled a group of militant strongholds
outside Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, killing 10 fighters.
Monday, American officials revealed that they had thwarted a plot to
bomb a U.S.-bound airliner with an explosive underwear device similar to
one crafted for the Christmas 2009 attempt to down a Detroit-bound
U.S. media reports say the man sent by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula
to carry out the plot was actually a double agent who had infiltrated
the terror group. Saudi officials worked with the CIA to deliver the
sophisticated new bomb to the U.S. government for analysis.
The operative also provided information that led to a reported drone
strike Sunday that killed al-Qaida leader Fahd al-Quso in Yemen.
He was wanted for his role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole off the
Yemeni coast. Seventeen U.S. sailors died in the blast.