US drones kill top AQAP leader in Yemen

Two suspected US drone strikes kill 12 Al Qaeda militants, including top leader Jalal Baleedi

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Damaged vehicles seen at the site of a suicide car bombing outside Yemen's presidential palace in the city of Aden, January 28, 2016.

Updated Feb 5, 2016

Twelve suspected members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have been killed in two suspected US drone strikes in Yemen, including a top commander.

One of the strikes killed six men while they were travelling in a car in the city of Rawda in the southern province of Shabwa late on Wednesday.

A separate strike hit a car in the Maraqesha area of the neighbouring Abyan Province, killing six AQAP militants including Jalal Baleedi, a top commander who is suspected of leading Al Qaeda attacks on the Yemeni state.

Baleedi is also believed to have recently defected from AQAP and become the chief of DAESH's Yemen branch, according to Reuters.

The United States is the only country known to operate armed drones over Yemen, home to AQAP, considered by Washington to be Al Qaeda’s most dangerous affiliate.

Yemen was plunged into political chaos after the Iran backed Houthi militants seized the country's capital Sanaa in September 2014.

Following further Houthi assaults President Abd Rabuh Mansour Hadi fled the country in March 2015 and called on Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations to help save Yemen.

In March 2015 a Saudi-led coalition consisting of 12 countries - mostly from the Arab region - began operations in Yemen.

Al Qaeda, taking the advantage of the war in the country, grabbed territory and started to operate more openly.

Its militants control Abyan's provincial capital Zinjibar and the nearby town of Jaar. They move freely between Hadramawt, Shabwa and Abyan. 

Earlier this week, they seized the town of Azzan in Shabwa.

DAESH have also gained ground in the south and carried out multiple bombings in the country.

US drone strikes killed some of AQAP's top leaders, including its chief Nasser al-Wuhayshi, last June.

TRTWorld and agencies