Airstrikes and mortar fire have killed at least 17 al-Qaida militants in southern Yemen, days after details emerged about a Saudi mole within the terrorist network whose information helped the U.S. foil a plot by the group's Yemeni branch.
Security officials in Yemen said Thursday's airstrikes struck the town of Jaar and northeast of Zinjibar, areas used as a base by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
The first pre-dawn strike killed five militants, including a senior member of the terror network. Two more insurgents were killed in the second airstrike, including al-Qaida's deputy commander for Lawder, a nearby town controlled by the group last year until its residents drove the militants out.
The United States has been using drones to strike al-Qaida in Yemen. Yemeni officials said one of the raids was carried out by a drone, but provided no details on the other. There was no comment from Washington on whether it was behind the raids.
Later Thursday, Yemeni soldiers shelled a group of militant strongholds outside Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, killing 10 fighters.
On Monday, American officials revealed that they had thwarted a plot to bomb a U.S.-bound airliner with an explosive underwear device similar to one crafted for the Christmas 2009 attempt to down a Detroit-bound plane.
U.S. media reports say the man sent by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula to carry out the plot was actually a double agent who had infiltrated the terror group. Saudi officials worked with the CIA to deliver the sophisticated new bomb to the U.S. government for analysis.
The operative also provided information that led to a reported drone strike Sunday that killed al-Qaida leader Fahd al-Quso in Yemen.
He was wanted for his role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole off the Yemeni coast. Seventeen U.S. sailors died in the blast.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.