US officials consider AQAP to the the most dangerous of all al-Qaida's affiliates and offshoots. The terror group has taken advantage of the fighting, chaos and political upheaval in Yemen to grab land and carry out terror attacks. Al-Qaida's presence has a destabilizing effect on Yemen; it is using the unrest in Yemen to provide a haven from which to plan future attacks against American allies as well as the US and its interests.
Before being forced out, al Qaeda militants took advantage of more than a year of war between the Iran-allied Houthis and supporters of the Saudi-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to carve out a mini-state stretching across much of the southern coast, including Mukalla.
A US airstrike on an al-Qaida training camp in Yemen killed dozens of terrorists, the Pentagon said 22 March 2016. "This strike deals a blow to AQAP's [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula] ability to use Yemen as a base for attacks that threaten U.S. persons, and it demonstrates our commitment to defeating al-Qaida and denying it safe haven," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said. Cook said more than 70 terrorists were training at the camp and that experts were still assessing the results of the airstrike. But he said initial results showed dozens of al-Qaida members had been killed.
Yemeni government forces and their Emirati allies took back control of the country's largest oil export terminal from al-Qaida on April 25, 2016, a day after routing the militants from their nearby stronghold. The lightning advance was a shift in strategy for the Saudi-led coalition forces, which for over a year have focused their firepower on the Iran-allied Houthis who had seized the capital Sanaa and driven the government into exile.
On 03 June 2016 the U.S. military announced several counterterrorism strikes in Yemen that were previously unreported and that killed a total of 15 al-Qaida militants. That brought the total number of U.S. counterterrorism strikes in Yemen this year to nine, according to the Pentagon. Col. Pat Ryder, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command which overseas military operations across the Middle East, told reporters Friday one of the airstrikes occurred May 19 in the Shabwah Governorate of central Yemen.
A February 3 strike in the same governorate killed six al-Qaida operatives. Two other strikes, one in February and one in March, targeted al-Qaida militants in eastern and central Yemen.
Ryder said the disclosure of the strikes was part of a decision by the military to “be more transparent,” particularly when the military has been highlighting strikes in Iraq and Syria. “Going forward, our intent is to do this similar kind of thing,” he said.
The spokesman said delays might occur for future strike announcements to allow for intelligence gathering and operation assessment. “Sometimes the chatter that comes after the strike allows us to collect more intelligence on adversaries and conduct future strikes,” Ryder said.
The U.S. military said it killed three al-Qaida operatives in a counterterrorism strike in Yemen. The U.S. Central Command did not say how the strike was conducted, nor did it reveal the identities of those killed. In a statement 05 August 2016, the U.S. Central Command said the strike occurred in the Shabwa province in central Yemen against fighters of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The U.S. military had previously carried out numerous drone strikes in Yemen against Islamist militants.
According to an October 14, 2016 study by the Jamestown Foundation, “The war in Yemen and the extraordinary destruction that it has wrought have created ideal conditions for an organization that has proven itself to be highly capable and adaptable. The future for AQAP has rarely looked brighter.”
The United States on 01 November 2016 imposed sanctions on a Yemeni money exchange and the two brothers who own it for doing business with the al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula terrorist group. US assets belonging to the al-Omgy and Brothers Money Exchange are frozen, and Americans are now barred from doing business with it. The al-Omgy exchange and its owners "are responsible for financially facilitating and supporting AQAP in its violent attacks," said Adam Szubin, the U.S. Treasury's top terrorism official. "Treasury will continue to work with our allies to protect the international financial system by exposing and taking action against AQAP supporters."
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