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US troops raid Yemen villages in hunt for al-Qaeda leader

Yemen's government in exile has said it will review US permissions to launch raids on its territory
The US has carried out dozens of air strikes on al-Qaeda in Yemen since Trump's inauguration (screengrab)

US jets and drones bombed two suspected al-Qaeda targets in southern Yemen overnight on Friday in the second consecutive day of US raids, officials said..

Residents reported a US assault in the Wadi Yashbum village in the southern Shabwah province including about 10 to 15 air strikes.

Residents said some of the strikes hit civilian homes and a number of civilians were among the wounded.

About three hours later, residents in the Jabal Mugan area of neighbouring Abyan province also reported air strikes.

Residents also cited ground battles involving American soldiers and al-Qaeda militants but two US officials told Reuters the latest operations did not involve ground combat.

"None of our troops were involved in a firefight over the last period of darkness," one of the US officials told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Washington Post reported that a defence official said there had been 25 strikes by manned and unmanned aircraft -  far more attacks in a single night than the US hs conducted in recent history.

Several civilians were among the wounded, they added.

"The strikes affected the peace and tranquility of the civilians in the village, especially women and children. Civilians are still shaken up as a result of the events," an anonymous source in Shabwah told Middle East Eye.

"A number of civilians have been displaced as a result of the assault. Many escaped Shabwah out of fear for their lives," the source continued.

Fragments from the strikes hit the home of local southern leader Naser al-Nouba, who told newspaper Aden Press he was about 100 metres away from the fighting.

About three hours later, residents in the Jabal Mugan area of neighbouring Abyan province also reported strikes by aircraft flying over the area.

Battles between suspected al-Qaeda fighters and US soldiers there also lasted about a half hour, and began again around 5am, they said.

Two days of strikes

The attacks come hours after the US said it carried out more than 20 air strikes in Yemen against AQAP on Thursday.

The US said the strikes, targeted militants, heavy weapons systems, equipment, infrastructure and the group's fighting positions.

They were carried out in the Yemeni governorates of Abyan, al-Bayda and Shabwah.

"The strikes will degrade the AQAP's ability to coordinate external terror attacks and limit their ability to use territory seized from the legitimate government of Yemen as a safe space for terror plotting," Navy Captain Jeff Davis said, using an acronym for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

The raids come after American soldiers attacked the village of Yakla on 29 January, leaving one commando and at least 23 civilians dead in a raid described as "highly successful" by the US president, Donald Trump, but disastrous by anonymous US officials.

The US forces reportedly missed their target, AQAP leader Qassim al-Rimi, who they said was hiding in a known al-Qaeda fortress.

However, local reports said the raid killed woman and children, including Nora al-Awlaki, the daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born al-Qaeda ideologue killed in a drone strike in 2011.

The US lost a V22 Osprey aircraft due to ground fire from militants in fortified positions.

US Navy commando William Owens, known as Ryan, was killed in the operation and six other troops were injured. 

Yemen's government in exile said afterwards it was reviewing US permissions to launch raids on its territory.

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