The US reportedly killed 3 suspected members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in a drone strike today that took place in a border region between the provinces of Shabwa and Marib. The strike is the first reported in Yemen in more than two and a half months.
Arabic-language reports indicated that the strike targeted a Suzuki Vitara carrying AQAP operatives, allegedly resulting in the complete destruction of the vehicle and the deaths of at least three individuals.
The remotely piloted Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired four missiles at the vehicle, according to media reports. Tribal and security sources in Yemen’s Marib province confirmed that a vehicle had been targeted by a US drone.
Today’s strike is the first since the Nov. 12, 2014 strike in Shabwa province that reportedly killed 7 suspected AQAP members as they gathered “under a group of trees” in Azzan. Today’s strike is also the first in Yemen in 2015, as well as the first since the resignation of the Yemeni government, including President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, last week.
The resignations came amid reports that the Houthi rebels, who have been challenging the central government since late September, had kidnapped Yemen’s chief-of-staff and were placing many Yemeni ministers under house arrest, including President Hadi.
Today’s strike in Yemen also comes just one day following President Barack Obama’s remarks in India regarding Yemen, in which he claimed that the current instability in Yemen due to the Houthi rebel offensive will not affect US counter-terrorism efforts in the country.
Last week, counterterrorism officials and Yemen analysts suggested that the collapse of the Yemeni government, a staunch ally of the United States’ war on terror, might render efforts to counter AQAP in Yemen “paralyzed.” Some US officials even claimed that the current unrest in Yemen had forced the US to suspend some operations in the country in light of the fact that it relied heavily on intelligence provided by the Yemeni government and military.
The following pictures of the vehicle targeted in today’s strike were released by the Arabic media (Source: Al Masdar Online):