A suspected US drone strike killed three alleged al-Qaeda members in the Yemeni province of Maarib, AFP reported Tuesday, citing officials from the Saudi-backed Yemeni government.
“Three Al-Qaeda members were killed in a strike by a drone that is believed to be American,” an unnamed government official said. “The three were in a car in Wadi Obeida when they were targeted by the suspected US strike that killed them immediately.”
The Saudi-backed government still controls most of the Maarib province, but the Houthis took control of some districts in 2021, a year that saw heavy fighting in the area. According to SouthFront, the drone strike took place in government-controlled territory.
Since 2015, the US has backed the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen in a conflict that has killed at least 377,000 people, most of whom died as a result of starvation and disease caused by the war and blockade.
But the US still occasionally launches attacks against al-Qaeda in Yemen, known as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), even though the coalition is sided with the terror group against the Houthis.
A report from The Associated Press in 2018 found that the Saudi-UAE coalition hired al-Qaeda members to help fight against the Houthis. The AP report said: “Coalition-backed militias actively recruit al-Qaeda militants, or those who were recently members, because they’re considered exceptional fighters.”
CNN reported in 2019 that US arms sold to the UAE and Saudi Arabia ended up in al-Qaeda’s hands in Yemen.
Right before the Obama administration backed the coalition against the Houthis in March 2015, the US was actually cooperating with the Houthis against AQAP. In January 2015, The Wall Street Journal reported that the US had “forged ties” as part of a strategy to “maintain its fight against a key branch of al Qaeda.”