The Pentagon has issued a statement today claiming that eight “operatives” within al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) were killed in a US drone strike in Yemen last weekend. In a particularly rare move, they even named one of the slain as Abu Ahmed Awlaki.
Officials described Awlaki as a “plotter of external attacks” and a top AQAP leader in the Shabwa Province. Despite claiming they’ve been after him for some time, this appears to be the first time he’s been mentioned publicly by anyone, which is common when officials are trying to raise the profile of a killing.
Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said that the US has carried out “more than 80” strikes against AQAP targets inside Yemen since the end of February. That’s by far the highest rate of such strikes within the country ever by the US, and comes amid talk from Pentagon leaders of joining the Saudi war.
That’s a whole separate war in Yemen, however, as the Saudi invasion targets the nation’s Shi’ite minority in the north, while the fighting against AQAP is largely in the nation’s south and central regions, AQAP having gained substantial territory during the Saudi invasion.