TAMPA, Fla. – U.S. forces conducted an airstrike against three al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula militants in Shabwah Governorate, Yemen, June 16, to disrupt terrorist compounds, and attack networks in Yemen. Abu Khattab al Awlaqi, the emir for AQAP’s terrorist stronghold in Shabwah Governorate, was killed in the strike along with two of his AQAP associates.
Al Awlaqi was a senior leader responsible for planning and conducting terrorist attacks against civilians. He had significant influence throughout AQAP’s terrorist stronghold, had ties and access to the group’s other senior leaders, and was implicated in planning and leading efforts to exacerbate instability in Southern Yemen.
In coordination with the government of Yemen, U.S. forces are conducting a series of sustained counterterrorism operations in Yemen against AQAP to degrade the group’s ability to hold territory and coordinate external terror attacks. Senior AQAP leaders seek safe haven in places like Shabwah Governorate to plot attacks against the U.S., our interests, and our friends and allies across the world. Al Awlaqi’s death removes a trusted and experienced terrorist leader from AQAP’s ranks.
In recent years, AQAP has taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Yemen to plot, direct and inspire terror attacks against the U.S., its citizens and allies around the world. The group and its predecessors attacked the U.S. Embassy-Sanaa in 2008, attempted to down Northwest Airlines 253 on Christmas Day 2009, and conspired to send explosive-laden parcels to Chicago in 2010. The group has also used its English-language magazine, Inspire, to encourage attacks against the West, and has been linked to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, 2009 Ft. Hood shooting, and other lone-wolf attacks in the U.S. and Europe. AQAP is a formidable terror group that remains committed and capable of attacking U.S. citizens and the homeland. The Yemeni leadership is working with Arab allies to remove AQAP from its governorates.