U.S. launches airstrikes against al Qaeda in Yemen

A US official told ABC News that the airstrikes were planned prior to that SEAL mission. AQAP has actively planned attacks against western targets.

However, the official maintained the cache of seized computers, cell phones, and hard drives has already produced leads as to where other al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula terrorists were located in Yemen.

The Pentagon said in a statement that more than 20 early morning airstrikes, using a mix of manned and unmanned aircraft, were aimed at AQAP fighters, equipment, infrastructure, heavy weapons systems and fighting positions in the Yemeni governorates of Abyan, Al Bayda and Shabwah. US officials said 14 militants were killed as well as some civilians.

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Owens, 36, was killed in the raid on a branch of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, in al Bayda province on January 29.

The strikes come barely a month after a botched American commando raid against the militants that left multiple civilians dead, including nine children and a US Navy SEAL.

The attack was in al-Saeed, an area of Shabwa province home to the al-Awaleq tribe, the extended clan of Anwar al-Awlaki, a militant cleric and US citizen killed in 2011 by a USA drone strike. According to media reports, the operation's goal was to capture or kill the group's leader Qassim Rimi, who is considered the third most risky terrorist in the world and a master recruiter.

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The White House and Pentagon have repeatedly described the raid as a success despite Owens' death, in that the mission gathered valuable intelligence on AQAP's activities and planned operations.

But the militant group has exploited a power vacuum created by two years of war between Yemen's Saudi-backed government and rebels who control the capital to consolidate its presence, particularly in the south and east.

It was not clear Thursday whether intelligence captured in the January 29 raid led to Thursday's airstrikes, or if this was the first operation against the terrorist group in Yemen since that operation.

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But it is still unclear how much the information advances the military's knowledge of the plans and future operations of al Qaeda's branch in Yemen. Mr Trump expressed his sympathies to Mr Owens's father, who refused to meet the president last week and who has called for an inquiry into the deadly mission.


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