x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Two senior al Qa'eda members killed in air strike, Yemen claims

The raid took place in an unpopulated area, according to the government, but one local group says at least two civilians were among the casualties.

SANA'A // The Yemen government announced yesterday that two senior al Qa'eda suspects were killed in an air strike on Sunday in the Moudia district of Abyan province, about 480km south-east of the capital. "Our air force carried out a raid on terrorist elements who were plotting attacks on vital installations [and] two leading al Qa'eda militants were killed," an unnamed official was quoted by the defence ministry website as saying.

The official did not specify what installations were being targeted. One of the militants was identified as Jamil Naser Abdullah al Anbari, who is believed to be al Qa'eda's ringleader in Abyan. The second was identified as Mohammed Ahmed al Zerbah. The pair were on a motorcycle when they were killed, according to a security official who requested anonymity. Col Ali Abdullah al Salehi, the security director of Moudia, described the air attack as "precise" and "was based on accurate information that al Qa'eda militants were having a meeting to plot terrorist attacks". He said the strike targeted an unpopulated area on the outskirts of Moudia.

Col al Salehi said police had secured the scene, where charred bodies were scattered, but he said he did not know the exact number of casualties. Local sources said the government launched three more successive strikes yesterday. The government would not comment on the strikes or casualties. Abbas al Assal, a spokesman for the Southern Movement, which is demanding independence for southern Yemen, said yesterday's strikes killed seven people, including two civilians. "These strikes have killed seven people, including ordinary Bedouin beekeepers. They have panicked the people, mainly women and children," Mr al Assal said.

He also said the strikes Sunday killed three security men. The Southern Movement displayed the men's work IDs in Moudia yesterday at an anti-government protest. However, such information could not be verified independently. "These strikes did not target al Qa'eda. These attacks are targeting the Southern Movement and the people of the south at large," Mr al Assal added. Backed by the United States, the government of Yemen has stepped up its attacks against the Yemeni branch of al Qa'eda. About 42 civilians, including women and children, were killed in an air strike on December 17 in the Abyan village of Al Maajala, sparking nationwide anger.

After a fact-finding parliamentary committee report, the government this month officially apologised to the families of the civilian victims of the attack and pledged to compensate them. @Email:malqadhi@thenational.ae