Seven al-Qaida militants killed in US Special Forces raid in Yemen

Seven al-Qaida militants killed in US Special Forces raid in Yemen

WASHINGTON, May 22 (Reuters) - Seven militants were killed during an intelligence-gathering raid by U.S. Special Forces troops against an al-Qaida compound in Yemen on Tuesday morning, U.S. officials said.

U.S. Central Command said in a statement the al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants were killed "through a combination of small-arms fire and precision air strikes" in the Marib governorate, with the support of the Yemeni government.

"Raids such as this provide insight into AQAP's disposition, capabilities and intentions, which will allow us to continue to pursue, disrupt, and degrade AQAP," the statement said.

Two U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters separately that there were no known U.S. casualties and the raid was carried out 40-45 km (25-30 miles) north of another U.S. raid that took place in late January.

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One of the U.S. officials said there were no immediate reports of civilian casualties in the raid, which was carried out by U.S. Special Forces troops.

The January operation, the first of its kind authorized by U.S. President Donald Trump, was hailed as a success by the White House and other U.S. officials.

However, critics questioned the value of the mission after a U.S. Navy Seal was killed. Women and children, as well as several militants, were also killed in the raid.

The U.S. military has carried out more than 80 strikes in Yemen against al-Qaida militants since February.

The group boasts one of the world's most feared bomb makers, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, and AQAP has been a persistent concern to the U.S. government since a 2009 attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day.

The militant group has also taken advantage of a civil war pitting the Iran-aligned Houthis against the Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to try to widen its control and influence in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country, one of the poorest in the Middle East. (Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Paul Tait)

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