Dozens of Islamic State militants were killed Monday by U.S. airstrikes targeting training camps in Yemen, the first time the group has been targeted in a country historically traversed by al-Qaeda loyalists, American officials said.
The camps in Al Bayda governorate were used to train militants on the use of small arms, according to the Pentagon. Officials confirmed Tuesday this marks the first time U.S. forces have targeted ISIS elements there.
Al Bayda is a sprawling region southeast of the capital, Sanaa, that has been the focus of ongoing U.S. military action. The first drone strikes of the Trump administration occurred there in January. Days later, Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, a Navy SEAL, was killed in a firefight in Al Bayda during a mission to obtain intelligence on al-Qaeda activity. Owens’s death was the first combat casualty to occur during Trump’s administration.
The Islamic State has sought to exert influence in the Middle East and North Africa after stinging defeats in Mosul, Iraq, and its expulsion from Raqqa, the group’s Syrian stronghold. U.S. Central Command, which oversees operations in the region, said the strikes were the first time ISIS fighters have been targeted in Yemen.
The country has become a beacon for militant activity since the collapse of the country’s government in 2014, when Shiite Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, forced then-Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to flee.
Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has led an Arab coalition that has attacked Houthi positions, leading to accusations of indiscriminate bombings and civilian deaths. The United States has provided limited intelligence and has flown aerial resupply missions for Saudi planes.
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