Sana’a (GPA) – According to several Yemeni government officials, someone has been shelling al Qaeda positions from a naval vessel off the coast. The officials say it seems to be the US, but the Pentagon denies it.
Yemeni officials say it appears US warships are conducting strikes against a stronghold of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in the al-Maraqisha mountains. The two officials have asked to remain anonymous but say the operation seems likely to be coming from the US in expanded attacks against al Qaeda in the country.
One official told several media outlets that “Ships fired several missiles towards the al-Maraqisha mountains, where al Qaida elements are based. The ships are widely believed to be Americans,” but that Yemeni officials “have received no information on the outcome of the shelling.”
US forces have primarily been using drones in this area for the last several years as the preferred method of taking out al Qaeda members. Yet with Trump’s recently approved Navy SEAL raid on an AQAP compound in the country, it’s possible that the new administration has been looking into alternate methods.
Pentagon spokesman, Navy Captain Jeff Davis has denied that the US was involved and has also said that the US has no knowledge of any activity like this in the area. It seems odd that the US wouldn’t have knowledge of anything happening in the area since the Yemenis say the rocket attacks have been going on for about five days.
The most likely scenario is that the US is behind these rocket attacks but would want to keep them quiet since the aforementioned SEAL raid has led to bad PR for Trump. The raid resulted in the death of one US soldier, and the Pentagon confirmed yesterday that several civilians were killed.
The US may also want to keep heightened operations quiet for a similar reason to the Obama administration’s frequent silence on issues in Yemen. Trump has pledged further support to Saudi Arabia in the war in Yemen despite their known ties to AQAP. Trump sees Yemen as a primary theater for fighting “Iran’s destabilizing activities,” armed with claims that they support the anti-Saudi Houthi militia in the country.
It seems obvious that Trump is stepping up his operations in Yemen so it wouldn’t be surprising that the US carried out these recent attacks. The US also seems like the only nation that would be capable of denying any activity whatsoever in the region. The question from these recent accusations isn’t if they’re happening (because they probably are) but why is nobody taking credit for hitting al-Qaeda?
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James Carey is an organizer based in Detroit, Michigan, founder of Geopolitics Alert, and an experienced analyst on Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Turkey. He also covers topics ranging from Latin America and Asia to Europe. You can also hear James in his weekly podcast; The Left is Dead which he co-hosts with investigative journalist Jake Anderson.