Pentagon ramps up Yemen airstrikes

Pentagon ramps up Yemen airstrikes
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The Pentagon carried out roughly 20 strikes in Yemen against al Qaeda militants since last week, putting the total number of strikes past 70 in a little over a month, a Defense Department spokesman said Monday.

The strikes are aimed at al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Yemeni al Qaeda branch that is considered the terrorist organization's most lethal branch.

“We continue to target [al Qaeda] in Yemen, and this is done in the interest of disrupting this terror organization that presents a very significant threat to the United States,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters.

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The United States conducted multiple airstrikes in Yemen this past weekend, according to reports out of the area. Davis would not say specifically how many airstrikes took place, instead saying that there have been 20 additional strikes since the middle of last week.  

“Since Feb. 28, we’ve conducted more than 70 precision airstrikes against AQAP militants' infrastructure, fighting positions and equipment,” he added. 

Yemen has been involved in civil war since March 2015, when Houthi rebels took over the capital of Sanaa and President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi fled to the southern city of Aden. Saudi Arabia, concerned about the Shiite Houthis' ties to Iran, formed a coalition and intervened in the neighboring country in support of Hadi.

As of March 24, 4,773 civilians have been killed and another 8,272 injured since the start of the conflict, according to the United Nations. Additionally, more than 3 million people have been displaced.

The United States has supported the campaign by selling the Saudis billions of dollars of weapons, providing intelligence and helping with logistics such as air refueling. 

There are also reports that President Trump is considering deeper U.S. involvement in Yemen, including providing assistance for an offensive on a key port held by rebels in the country.  

An early raid in Yemen early in Trump's administration fueled criticism against the administration after a Navy SEAL and several civilians, including an 8-year-old American citizen, were killed in the attack.