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U.S. military scrambles to explain why it posted a 10-year-old video to show its Yemen raid was a success

The U.S. military released a compendium of jihadi video Friday that it said showed “the sort of intelligence information” Navy SEALs seized in a deadly Jan. 29 raid in Yemen. There was just one problem: The clip included 10-year-old footage.

The video was released to the media midday as U.S. military officials said it was obtained in the search of a compound operated by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a terrorist group that has previously planned attacks in Western nations.

“The videos released today are samples of a series of detailed, do-it-yourself lessons intended for aspiring terrorist bomb-makers and included an exhortation to use those techniques to attack the West,” U.S. Central Command officials said in a news release. “The full-length videos, from which these clips were extracted, were taken from a computer seized by U.S. Special Operations service members during the raid.”

Air Force Col. John J. Thomas, a U.S. Central Command spokesman, said the video was taken down based on the reaction it received through social media. One clip in particular was previously published in 2007. The Pentagon had scheduled a 2 p.m. news briefing to discuss the raid, but canceled it after realizing the problem with the video, which already had aired on cable television news broadcasts and circulated online.

“I didn’t want it to appear like we were passing out old-as-new information,” Thomas said. “We’re not trying to get into a political discussion or influence anyone’s thinking. We’re just trying to [do] due diligence and help explain the kind of data we exploit at sites like this.”

Other information gathered in the raid is classified, but missions like it typically focus on expanding the U.S. military’s knowledge base about a terrorist organization.

A Navy SEAL, Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, 36, was mortally wounded in a firefight and three other SEALs also were hit by gunfire. The unit called for support, and U.S. aircraft opened fire from the air, likely killing both militants and civilians, U.S. officials said. Among the dead is said to be Nawar al-Awlaki, the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born cleric who joined al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen and was later killed in a 2011 U.S. drone strike.

Central Command said Friday that post-raid analysis has determined that several of the 14 militants killed were terrorist network leaders or facilitators. They include Abdul Raouf al-Dhahab and Sultan al-Dhahab, whom the military described as “long-standing AQAP operational planners and weapons experts.”

Central Command said the video it released was a sampling of “detailed, do-it-yourself lessons intended for aspiring terrorist bomb-makers and included an exhortation to use those techniques to attack the West.” The full videos were taken from a computer seized by the SEALs during the raid.

The videos were released after questions about the raid’s planning — the first of the Trump administration — were raised in the media. U.S. military officials have denied that the mission was compromised.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer provided an unusually detailed timeline of how the mission was approved in a news conference Thursday, saying the operation had been under consideration for months and discussed at the White House before Trump took over. Former officials who worked for former president Barack Obama disputed his account afterward. The Pentagon proposed carrying out raids against AQAP in Yemen, they said, but never discussed the specific mission carried out Jan. 29.

Related on Checkpoint:
A timeline of events on how the controversial Navy SEAL raid on Yemen was planned and carried out

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