Yemen raid: Pentagon posts, deletes 10-year-old militant video

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Defense Department spokesman said Pentagon didn't want critics to claim military was rehashing old intel

People walk on rubble of house destroyed by Saudi-led air strike in Sanaa (Reuters)
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Saturday 4 February 2017 0:18 UTC
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A US commando raid in Yemen that was beset with problems triggered fresh controversy on Friday after the Pentagon published a militant video meant to highlight the value of intel seized during the operation, only to pull it moments later.

The video, which US special operations forces seized from a computer, depicted a masked militant at a whiteboard delivering lessons on "How to Destroy The Cross" and demonstrating how to make explosives.

Trouble is, the video was about 10 years old and had already been circulated online.

"We didn't know it was an old file," said US Central Command spokesman Colonel John Thomas.

He said he pulled the video because he didn't want critics to claim the military was rehashing old intel, and stressed that commandos grabbed a trove of more current and useful files that remain classified.

"I just didn't want anyone to say... we are putting out the information and trying to be deceptive, because that's not the case," Thomas said.

The White House and Pentagon have been on the defensive since Sunday's raid - the first authorised by President Donald Trump - which targeted an Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula compound in Yemen. 

The Trump administration oversaw a series of drone strikes and a ground raid on Sunday in the village of Yakla, in Yemen's al-Bayda province. On Wednesday, US officials conceded that civilians were "likely killed".

Nawar al-Awlaki, the 8-year-old daughter of al-Qaeda preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, was previously reported to be among the dead. Her father, a US citizen, was killed in a 2011 drone strike under the Obama administration.

International rights group Reprieve said its evidence showed 23 civilian deaths in Yakla, including a newborn boy, and 10 children.

A Navy SEAL was killed and three other US troops were wounded in a fierce firefight with AQAP militants.

Three more service members were injured when their tilt-rotor aircraft made a "hard landing." The $75m MV-22 Osprey had to be destroyed in place to avoid having it fall into enemy hands.

On Wednesday, the Pentagon acknowledged that several non-combatants, including children, had apparently been killed in the raid.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Thursday said the raid was a "success by all standards".

The military seldom puts videos online highlighting intel it has seized. Thomas said the raid was successful from an intelligence perspective.

"This is more information than we've gotten at any one time from an AQAP location (in Yemen) up till now," he said.