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yemen
May 23, 2017

Several al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula militants were killed early Tuesday morning as U.S. military forces conducted a ground raid in central Yemen's Marib Governorate.

Col. John Thomas, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said the raid at a known AQAP compound began as a mission to gather information on the group, but when U.S. forces were met with resistance, they responded with gunfire and precision airstrikes, ABC News reports. Seven AQAP militants were killed, but there are no reports of any civilian or U.S. military casualties.

Thomas said the mission, the first ground operation conducted by the U.S. military in Marib province, was done "in full coordination with Arab partners in the area." Catherine Garcia

March 3, 2017

The Pentagon on Thursday conducted 20 to 25 airstrikes in Yemen, part of a ramped-up flurry of military activity against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) since President Trump's inauguration. After approving a Jan. 29 Special Operations ground assault, which resulted in the death of one Navy SEAL and several civilians plus a $75 million Chinook helicopter, Trump is considering giving generals more discretion to launch counterterrorism raids, and that's already true in Yemen, a defense official tells The Washington Post.

Trump has designated Yemen an "area of active hostility," the official said, granting military officials authority to launch strikes without White House approval, similar to former President Barack Obama's anti-Islamic State arrangement with Sirte, Libya, last year. It isn't clear how long the authority will last. There were local media reports that U.S. troops flew in from ships on Thursday for a ground raid, but Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis called those reports inaccurate. "We have U.S. Special Operations forces that go in and out of Yemen to assist our partner forces in fighting al Qaeda," Davis said, but the U.S. forces did not conduct any raids.

U.S. military officials did not estimate how many people were killed in the strikes, but local news reports say that hundreds of militants were killed. The airstrikes were not guided by any intelligence gathered in the Jan. 29 raid, according to senior officials. Peter Weber

February 1, 2017

The Pentagon has identified the Navy SEAL killed in last Saturday's raid on a militant compound in Yemen as Chief Special Warfare Operator William "Ryan" Owens, 36. Between three and six other U.S. personnel were injured in the chaotic raid. President Trump, who authorized the intelligence-gathering mission, has called Owens' family and expressed his condolences; it's the first U.S. combat fatality of Trump's term. Also killed in the raid were al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) senior leader Abdulraoof al-Dhahab and at least 13 other militants. Yemeni officials say at least 10 women and children were also killed, including the 8-year-old daughter of U.S.-born AQAP leader Anwar al-Awlaki, himself slain in a 2011 drone strike.

Things started going wrong for U.S. forces immediately, The Washington Post reported Tuesday night. They encountered fierce resistance as soon as they landed in the village of Taklaa, outside a heavily guarded AQAP compound. Officials called in backup, and helicopter gunships and Harrier jets struck the compound, before a Special Ops team arrived to evacuate the U.S. commandos and their wounded. Owens died from his injuries after being pulled out, The Post says. In the evacuation, one of the MV-22 Osprey helicopters lost power and landed hard, wounding two service members; a U.S. missile destroyed the Osprey so it wouldn't fall into enemy hands. Sources tell ABC's Martha Raddatz that AQAP seemed to know the Americans were coming:

The mission was to detain Yemeni tribal leaders working with AQAP, one of the most aggressive al Qaeda branches, and to gather intelligence to help prevent terrorist attacks. The U.S. hadn't launched any ground raids in Yemen since late 2014, before a Saudi-led Arab coalition started attacking Houthi rebels, with limited U.S. support. The fighting withered U.S. intelligence-gathering on AQAP, and a small Special Ops outpost was established on coastal Yemen last year, with United Arab Emirates troops, to start filling the counterintelligence hole, The Post reports.

Planning for the Yemen raid began in the final weeks of the Obama administration, and a former senior defense official said to expect more such raids in the future. "We really struggled with getting the White House comfortable with getting boots on the ground in Yemen,” the former official told The Washington Post. "Since the new administration has come in, the approvals [at the Pentagon] appear to have gone up." Trump called the raid a success, citing the slain militants and seized intelligence. Peter Weber

May 11, 2015

On Monday, Morocco's Royal Armed Forces said that one of its F-16 fighter jets went missing over Yemen at about 6 p.m. on Sunday, while taking part in a Saudi-led air campaign against the Houthi rebels. A pilot in the same squadron said he couldn't tell if the pilot in the missing plane ejected, according to Morocco's state MAP news agency.

Earlier Sunday, the Houtis agreed to a Saudi-proposed ceasefire, but it isn't scheduled to start until Tuesday, and the Saudi coalition was bombing parts of Yemen on Sunday. Morocco has six F-16s based in the United Arab Emirates, and this is their first mission since the North African nation purchased them from the U.S. in 2011. Peter Weber

March 25, 2015

Early Wednesday, Houthi rebels backed by Yemen military factions loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh captured a major air base just 35 miles from Aden, the Yemen port fashioned into a temporary capital by embattled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Hadi was forced out of Sanaa, Yemen's capital, last year.

Hadi (above, left) is widely reported to have fled Aden, his last real refuge, after the Shiite Houthis seized the nearby al-Annad air base, until recently used by U.S. and European forces to help Yemen's government fight Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The Houthi militants also arrested Defense Minister Maj. Gen. Mahmoud al-Subaihi (above, right) and his top aide during fighting in the southern city of Lahj, and they've offered a $100,000 bounty for Hadi's capture.

Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states near Yemen are alarmed at the rapid advance of the Iran-backed rebels to the edge of their borders. On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia said that "if the Houthi coup does not end peacefully, we will take the necessary measures for this crisis to protect the region." Peter Weber

March 19, 2015

Fighting escalated in Yemen on Thursday after an unidentified warplane attacked the presidential palace in Aden and forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi used tanks to fight their way into the airport and a nearby military base.

Aden's governor said that 13 people were killed during the airport and military base operations, which took place before the attack on the palace. Earlier in the week, General Abdel-Hafez al-Saqqaf went into the base and refused to leave after Hadi ordered him to give his Special Forces unit to another officer.

In a statement, Hadi said the Aden attack was an attempted coup backed by the former regime as well as "agents of Iran," Reuters reports. An aide to Hadi said he was safe and in a secure location. Witnesses to the attack on the palace said anti-aircraft guns opened fire at the plane, and they could see smoke rising from the area. Catherine Garcia

March 17, 2015

The U.S. Defense Department cannot account for more than $500 million in U.S. military aid to Yemen, and officials are worried that small arms, ammunition, patrol boats, vehicles, and other equipment might end up in the hands of al-Qaeda or Iranian-backed rebels.

In January, Yemen's government was toppled by Houthi rebels, who have also taken over several military bases in the northern part of the country that were home to U.S.-trained counterterrorism units, The Washington Post reports, and it became even harder to keep track of things in the country once the U.S. embassy closed in February.

A defense official speaking on the condition of anonymity told the Post there's no evidence the arms or equipment are in the wrong hands, but did confirm that the Pentagon has lost track of the items. The U.S. government had limited its lethal aid to small firearms and ammunition, ignoring requests from Yemen for fighter jets and tanks, and stopped $125 million worth of shipments to Yemen that were scheduled for delivery this year, the defense official said; drones, Jeeps, and aircraft were instead donated to countries in Africa and the Middle East. Catherine Garcia

February 11, 2015

On Wednesday, protestors took to the streets of two cities in Yemen to protest against Houthi rule.

In the capital city of Sana’a, hundreds turned out and were under the watchful eye of Houthis who carried automatic rifles and "shot in the air and thrust daggers at the crowds," Reuters reports. Tens of thousands of protestors marched in the central city of Taiz, which has not been taken over by the militant group. There, the crowd carried banners and shouted anti-Houthi chants.

Also on Wednesday, the U.S. ambassador and diplomatic staff left their embassy amid security concerns, and France and Britain announced they would be closing their embassies as well. Abdel Malik al-Ijri, a member of the Houthi political bureau, said on Facebook that this was a mistake and "not justified at all," Reuters says. "Governments of brotherly and friendly countries in the near future will realize that it is in their interest to deal with the will of our people with due respect," he wrote. Catherine Garcia

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