US fighter jets pounded Al-Qaeda targets in Yemen for a second straight day on Friday, security and tribal sources said, as Washington steps up its air war against the jihadists.
Yemeni officials said at least 12 suspected militants were killed in those strikes, which came barely one month after a botched US commando raid against the group left multiple civilians and a Navy SEAL dead.
In Friday’s strikes, US warplanes hit three houses in the Yashbam Valley before dawn, one of them the home of Al-Qaeda’s Shabwa province commander, Saad Atef, the tribal sources said.
The valley is a jihadist stronghold and was one of the targets of Thursday’s strikes.
Jihadists retaliated with anti-aircraft fire, security officials and tribal sources said.
Tribal sources said that there were casualties and that they included women and children.
One resident said it had been a “terrifying night.”
US President Donald Trump faced broad criticism at home after he authorized the January 29 commando raid during which Navy SEAL Ryan Owens was killed and multiple civilians perished.
As many as eight women and eight children were killed, a Baida provincial official said, drawing condemnation of the raid from human rights groups.
Al-Qaeda has exploited a power vacuum created by two years of war between Yemen’s government and Shiite rebels who control the capital to consolidate its presence, particularly in the south and east.
Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said Al-Qaeda had taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Yemen to plot, direct, and inspire terror attacks against America and its allies.
He said Thursday’s strikes targeted Al-Qaeda militants, equipment and infrastructure. Another US official said they had involved both fighter jets and drones.
Successive US administrations have kept up a drone war against Al-Qaeda in Yemen since soon after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Washington regards the Yemen branch as the jihadists’ most dangerous and holds it responsible for several plots to carry out attacks in the West.