Yemeni forces killed 34 suspected al-Qaeda members, including senior leaders, in a dawn raid on Thursday in a remote mountainous region of Yemen’s Shabwa province, a security source said.
“The raid was carried out as dozens of members of al-Qaeda were meeting in Wadi Rafadh,” said the source, referring to a rugged location about 650km east of the Yemeni capital.
The head of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Nasser al-Wahishi and his deputy, Saeed al-Saudi Shahrani, were present at the meeting, said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
He added that “members of the group’s leadership, including Saad al-Fathani and Mohammad Ahmed Saleh al-Omir, were among those killed”.
The source was unable to say what had happened to a-Wahishi or his deputy, but he indicated that Omir had recently appeared in a video made of a public meeting in southern Abyan province which was later screened by Al-Jazeera television.
“Saudis and Iranians at the Wadi Rafadh meeting were also among the dead,” said the source, without going into detail.
A second security source told Agence France-Presse that the raid had been launched after locals had tipped the authorities off about the meeting in Wadi Rafadh.
The Yemeni Defence Ministry cited a source in the High Security Council as confirming Thursday’s raid in Shabwa but gave no death toll.
“Security forces will continue to hunt for terrorists … and thwart their criminal plans,” the Defence Ministry quoted the source as saying.
A Yemeni official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that those attending the meeting “planned to launch terrorist attacks against economic installations in Yemen, in retaliation for Yemeni strikes launched last week”. — AFP