US forces kill seven al-Qaeda militants in Yemen, says Pentagon

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  • As Donald Trump focuses fire on Iran’s support for ‘terrorists and militias’

US forces have carried out a raid on an al-Qaeda compound in Yemen, killing seven militants, the US military says.

They were killed “through a combination of small arms fire and precision air strikes” in the Marib governorate, east of Sanaa, on Tuesday morning.

The primary objective of the operation was to gather intelligence.

The military did not say whether there were any US casualties during the raid which was supported by the Yemeni government.

In a statement, the US Central Command says the militants were members of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

“Raids such as this provide insight into AQAP’s disposition, capabilities and intentions, which will allow us to continue to pursue, disrupt, and degrade AQAP.”

The US has carried out frequent strikes on al-Qaeda’s bases in Yemen, often using unmanned drones.

In January, it said that 14 militants were killed during a commando raid on an al-Qaeda stronghold in central Yemen.

Al-Qaeda has taken advantage of the chaos caused by the conflict in Yemen to entrench its presence in the south and south-east of the country.

For the past two years, the country has been embroiled in fighting between forces loyal to the internationally recognised president, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, and Shia Houthi rebels.

In the meantime, Donald Trump, on his first presidential visit to Israel and the West Bank, has escalated his war of words against Iran, demanding that Tehran immediately stop its financial and military support for “terrorists and militias” and reiterating that it must never be permitted to possess nuclear weapons.

Trump referred to the Iran issue repeatedly on Monday, expanding on his speech in Saudi Arabia the day before in which he blamed “Iran’s rising ambitions” for violently destabilising the Middle East.

“The United States and Israel can declare with one voice that Iran must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon – never, ever – and must cease its deadly funding, training and equipping of terrorists and militias, and it must cease immediately,” Trump said in at a meeting in Jerusalem with the Israeli president, Reuven Rivlin.

Trump added that he had detected, too, “a growing realisation among your Arab neighbours that they have common cause with you in the threat posed by Iran”. He returned to the theme during a joint press appearance with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, on Monday evening.

Trump also appeared to inadvertently confirm that Israel was the source of classified intelligence material he shared with Russian officials.

At the press event with Netanyahu, Trump insisted that he had “never mentioned the word Israel” during his recent meeting with Russian officials in which he divulged classified information that reportedly came from Israel.

Trump’s visit to Israel was initially presented as an attempt to make a breakthrough in the moribund peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, but any talk of a deal has been overshadowed by his focus on Iran.

In his comments on arrival, Trump said he believed there was “a rare opportunity to bring security and stability and peace” to the Middle East peace process, but throughout the day, Iran seemed to concern him more.

BBC with additional report from Guardian

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