The U.S. military this week hit al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, with more than 20 airstrikes, according to a Department of Defense news summary.
The airstrikes — which were mostly carried out by unmanned aerial vehicles — took place April 1 and 2 in Yemen's Shabwa province, an area known for a large AQAP presence, according to Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis.
"The precision airstrikes targeted al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula terrorists, as well as the terrorists' infrastructure, fighting positions and equipment," Davis said. "We continue to target AQAP in Yemen, and this is done in the interest of disrupting a terror organization that presents a very significant threat to the United States."
The weekend airstrikes in Yemen put the total number carried out this year at 70 according to DoD, while FDD's Long War Journal indicates that there have been at least 75, according to their airstrike data. Whether 70 or more, the number of airstrikes carried out in Yemen this year is nearly double the yearly totals since the U.S. began carrying out drone strikes against AQAP in 2009. Prior to this year, the highest airstrike tally in Yemen was in 2009, with a total of 41.
Since Feb. 28, the Pentagon says that "some 50 airstrikes" have been carried out in Yemen. On March 2 alone, 20 airstrikes were carried out in the early morning hours, according to a statement from Davis.
On Jan. 29, the U.S. carried out a raid in Yemen’s Al Baydah province, resulting in the deaths of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William Ryan Owens and at least 13 civilians. The U.S. reported that despite the controversy surrounding the raid, it had gained significant intelligence on AQAP operations in the region.
AQAP still maintains territory in the rural parts of southern and central Yemen, with Davis reporting last month that they have a force size in the "low thousands."