A weekend operation against members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is part of a "massive and unprecedented" campaign against the militant group, an unidentified Yemeni government official told CNN.
According to the official, at least 30 AQAP operatives were killed in strikes on Saturday and Sunday, and now authorities are "going after high-level AQAP targets." Reuters reported the AQAP death toll as closer to 40, saying that about 30 members were killed in two separate attacks on Sunday alone. Three civilian casualties were reported on Saturday, as well.
The three attacks targeted an AQAP training camp in the village of Wadi al Khila which, according to the the country's Supreme Security Committee, was "destroyed the training facility completely and killed both Yemeni and foreign members." The committee added that those targeted were "preparing to launch attacks against Yemeni and foreign interests in the area."
Last week, the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium uploaded a video to YouTube showing an unnervingly large AQAP gathering in Yemen, where leaders emphasized that action should be taken against America. Washington hasn't commented on whether it participated in the weekend strike, but the official told CNN the operation was a combined effort:
The official said Sunday's raid was a joint U.S.-Yemeni operation. He would not confirm whether drones were used in the attack, but the United States is the only country known to have conducted drone strikes in Yemen. As a rule, U.S. officials don't comment on those strikes. But the official said the area is so rugged and mountainous that Yemeni troops would have faced heavy losses in any ground assault.
It's not yet clear who among the AQAP leadership was killed in the attacks.
Update: Yemen continued its assault on the AQAP camp today, and Yemen has revised upwards the number of AQAP militants killed in Sunday's strike, reporting that at least 55 operatives were killed that day. The Yemeni Interior Ministry added that three prominent figures, Mohammed Salem Abed Rabbo al-Mashibi, Fawaz Hussein al-Mahrak, Saleh Said Mahrak, were among the dead. Security officials added that Monday's strike killed a number of militants, including local commander Munnaser al-Anbouri.