SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Al-Qaida’s arm in the Arabian Peninsula said two of the militant group’s operatives, including its media chief, were killed by a suspected US drone in central Yemen last month.
The announcement came Sunday in a five-page obituary posted on militant websites typically used by the extremist group.
It says the group’s media chief was killed along with another al-Qaida member when a purported US drone strike hit their residence in central Yemen on Feb. 26.
The CIA declined to comment on the suspected attack.
Another suspected US strike on al-Qaida operatives in January reportedly killed three in Yemen.
Al-Qaida said Hamad al-Tamimi, the terror group’s media chief, was killed along with another member of the al-Qaida branch when their house near the central Yemeni city of Marib was hit last month in an alleged US strike.
Days after the February attack, the US military said it had not carried out any strikes in Yemen that week and the CIA declined to comment.
Three Yemeni tribal elders told The Associated Press the strike targeted a house where al-Tamimi was living in the Wadi Ubaydah area, not far from where another alleged US strike Three suspected operatives of the group were killed in January. All three spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals by extremists present in Marib.
In the January attack, the suspected al-Qaida members appeared to have been killed by a Hellfire R9X, otherwise known as the “flying Ginsu” or “knife bomb,” based on images of the wreckage analyzed by the AP and weapons experts. The CIA is known to have deployed the drone against high-value targets in the past.
The two attacks raise questions over the secretive US drone campaign in Yemen, which started about 20 years ago.
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, also known by its acronym AQAP, is active in several regions in Yemen, including Marib and other far-flung provinces. It is believed to be one of the more dangerous branches of the al-Qaida terror network.
UN experts believe AQAP numbers a few thousand members, its ranks strengthened by foreign fighters.
Years of civil war, which has pitted the Iran-backed Houthi rebels and a Saudi-led coalition fighting to restore Yemen’s internationally recognized government to power, has allowed al-Qaida to maintain a presence, particularly in remote and more lawless areas of Yemen.
Yemen’s war began in 2014 when the Houthis swept down from their northern stronghold and seized the capital, Sanaa, along with much of the country’s north. The Saudi-led coalition intervened in 2015. The conflict has spawned one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises and impoverished Yemen pushed to the brink of famine.
Associated Press writer Jack Jeffery contributed to this report from Cairo.