A suspected US drone strike, in Yemen, is believed to have killed a top commander, within al-Qaeda’s Arabian Peninsula combat operations.
A suspected US drone strike overnight killed a top Islamist militant commander in southern Yemen who had run al-Qaeda’s combat operations and had a $5 million US bounty on his head, residents said.
In nine months of civil war and a Gulf military intervention in Yemen, the United States has kept up a drone campaign there against al-Qaeda and increasingly, Islamic State militants, who have continued to carry out attacks.
Impoverished Yemen has suffered fierce fighting and humanitarian crisis since March, when a Saudi-led Gulf Arab coalition began near-daily air strikes to rout the Iran-backed Houthis and restore the central government.
Jalal Baleedi was killed by a drone strike as he was traveling in a car with two others in coastal Abyan province.
According to media reports and some analysts, Baleedi may have recently defected from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to become the chief of Islamic State’s Yemen branch.
The US State Department said Baleedi was involved in planning attacks on Western diplomatic targets in Sana’a in 2013 and put a reward of up to $5 million for information that would bring him to justice.
Al-Qaeda militants rallied in Abyan capital Zinjibar and planted the group’s black flag on government buildings and setting up checkpoints on main roads and the highway leading to the port city of Aden, Yemen’s temporary capital some 40 kilometers (25 miles) away.