Trump Targets ISIS in Yemen for First Time With Strikes on Training Camps

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A Yemeni man surveys the damage the day after a twin bombing attack at a Shiite mosque in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, on September 3, 2015. The Islamic State (ISIS) group claimed the suicide attack in a statement posted on Twitter. Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty

The U.S. military said Monday that it had conducted its first-ever raids against the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in Yemen, a country ravaged by more than two years of war.

U.S. Central Command, the body that oversees U.S. forces in the Middle East, said in a statement that its strikes had killed dozens of members of ISIS at training camps.

The compounds were named after two high-level ISIS figures, its late spokesman Abu Muhammed al-Adnani, who the U.S. killed in an airstrike in August 2016, and its Yemeni leader Abu Bilal al-Harbi.

“U.S. forces killed dozens of ISIS members in a strike on two ISIS training camps...in Al-Bayda governorate, Yemen, disrupting the organization’s attempts to train new fighters,” U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

“ISIS used the camps to train militants to conduct terror attacks using AK-47s, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and endurance training.”

The militant group has seized upon the instability in Yemen, where Shiite Houthi rebels are waging an insurgency against the Sunni government backed by a Saudi-led coalition.

It has conducted a series of suicide bomb attacks in the capital, Sanaa—controlled by the Houthis—and particularly on Shiite mosques, leaving scores of people dead. The wider civil war has left almost 9,000 people dead, according to U.N. figures.

“Strikes against ISIS targets disrupt and destroy militants’ attack-plotting efforts, leadership networks and freedom of maneuver within the region,” the U.S. military statement read.

“ISIS has used the ungoverned spaces of Yemen to plot, direct, instigate, resource and recruit for attacks against America and its allies around the world,” it continued. “For years, Yemen has been a hub for terrorist recruiting, training and transit.”

Before Monday’s strikes, the U.S. military had exclusively conducted drone strikes and commando raids against the other prominent jihadi group in Yemen: Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.

President Donald Trump’s first foreign mission order was a special forces raid against the group on January 29 that failed to capture or kill its target, a senior AQAP leader, and resulted in the death of one U.S. Marine.

AQAP is the most powerful wing of Al-Qaeda and one that has plotted high-level attacks on U.S. and European soil, such as the failed bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 to Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009, when a suicide bomber only partially set off explosives sewn into his underwear.

The group also claimed the attack on the Paris offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015, led by brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, both French nationals of North African descent.