An American military airstrike in Yemen has killed Abu Khattab al-Awlaqi, a “trusted and experienced” emir of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and two of his colleagues, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) has announced.
Al Awlaqi was a senior leader responsible for planning and conducting terrorist attacks against civilians… He had significant influence throughout al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula’s terrorist stronghold, had ties and access to the group’s other senior leaders, and was implicated in planning and leading efforts to exacerbate instability in southern Yemen… Al Awlaqi’s death removes a trusted and experienced terrorist leader from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula’s ranks.
The U.S. military killed the AQAP chief on June 16.
U.S. forces conducted an airstrike against three al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula militants in Shabwah Governorate, Yemen, June 16, to disrupt terrorist compounds, and attack networks in Yemen. Abu Khattab al Awlaqi, the emir for AQAP’s terrorist stronghold in Shabwah Governorate, was killed in the strike along with two of his AQAP associates.
President Donald Trump’s administration has escalated U.S. military efforts against Yemen’s AQAP, considered the most potent al-Qaeda branch that poses the biggest threat to the United States.
U.S. troops, in coordination with the Yemeni government, have been carrying out a series of counterterrorism operations against AQAP to degrade the terrorist group’s ability to hold territory and conduct external terror attacks, according to CENTCOM.
Since Trump took office, the U.S. military has launched an excess of 80 airstrikes against al-Qaeda, more than double the average of those carried out over the past five years, points out Fox News.
The recent airstrike killed the AQAP emir in Yemen’s Shabwah governorate where the jihadist group has established a stronghold that allows it to plot attacks against the United States and its allies across the world.
AQAP has capitalized on the security and political chaos in Yemen to recruit fighters, expand its influence, and capture territory.
Moreover, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s nearly single-minded focus to defeat the Iran-allied Shiite Houthis in Yemen has allowed the Sunni AQAP group to flourish.
AQAP claims it receives support from the U.S.-backed Saudi-led Sunni alliance.
“In recent years, AQAP has taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Yemen to plot, direct and inspire terror attacks against the U.S., its citizens and allies around the world,” notes the Pentagon.
The Saudi-led alliance has been fighting in Yemen since March of 2015. AQAP is “building an emirate” in Yemen, Thomas Joscelyn from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) told lawmakers in March.
Echoing the claims from the terrorist group, the FDD expert noted that “some of AQAP’s leaders are also partnered with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and [U.S.-backed Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour] Hadi’s government in the war against the Houthis.”