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US air strike kills former Guantanamo prisoner in Yemen

Yasir al-Silmi was killed amid increased US strikes against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen
A mural in Yemen that protests US air strikes (AFP)

A former Guantanamo Bay inmate was killed in a US air strike in Yemen last week, the Defence Department said on Monday, as part of a stepped-up campaign against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

"We can confirm the death of a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, Yasir al-Silmi," Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said.

Silmi, also known as Mohammed Tahar, had been incarcerated at the notorious US military prison in Cuba from 2002 to December 2009, when he was repatriated to Yemen.

Davis said Silmi was not considered a "high-value" target.

His Guantanamo file said the 37-year-old Yemeni was an "Islamic extremist" who had wanted to conduct bomb attacks against US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Republican lawmakers repeatedly blocked then-president Barack Obama's efforts to close Guantanamo and pointed to former detainees returning to militancy as proof inmates should remain locked up there.

Silmi died on 2 March in the same strike that killed Usayd al-Adnani, a "long-time explosives expert who served as the organisation's emir within the Abyan governorate," Davis said.

The United States has conducted more than 40 strikes against AQAP in Yemen since ramping up operations five nights ago.

None of the strikes were conducted based on intelligence gathered in a US raid in January, the first authorised by President Donald Trump, in which multiple civilians and a Navy SEAL were killed.

Two years of civil war in Yemen have allowed AQAP, which Washington regards as al-Qaeda’s most dangerous branch, to consolidate its grip on territory in southern and eastern Yemen.

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