By Kasim Ileri
WASHINGTON (AA) – A total of 15 militants have been killed in four counterterrorism strikes in recent months against al-Qaeda in Yemen, including one May 19, Central Command of the U.S. Department of Defense announced Friday.
Spokesman Col. Pat Ryder said the strikes against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula were not previously announced.
The May 19 strike in Shabwah governorate in central Yemen killed four fighters, Ryder said.
Another strike in the same area killed six fighters Feb. 3; another in Hadramawt governorate Feb. 29 in east Yemen killed three militants and one in the vicinity of Azzan in central Yemen on March 30 killed two fighters.
Although pressed by reporters, Ryder failed to explain why the Defense Department did not release information about the airstrikes at the time they were conducted.
According to a Central Command statement, however, the Pentagon has launched nine strikes this year against the group in Yemen, killing 81 militants.
As the militants have gained ground amid the chaos in Yemen, the Pentagon has increased military support for operations in Yemen, including deployment of special operations forces to advise Yemeni and Emirati forces.
The U.S. views al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as a persistent threat to the region and its own interests.