U.S. Navy warships moored off the southern coastline of Yemen began relentlessly bombarding suspected al Qaeda targets in the country, days after a botched Navy SEAL raid in the country left one special warfare operator dead and six wounded.
The naval assault entered its fifth day on Thursday, hammering areas near the coastal towns of Shoqra and Zinjibar, just over 60 miles east of the major Yemeni port city of Aden, government security officials told The Associated Press.
Both towns, reportedly known redoubts for al Qaeda’s Yemeni cell, known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or AQAP, are located 115 miles south of Bayda govenorate, the site of last Sunday’s deadly counterterrorism mission.
The SEAL team immediately began “receiving fire from all sides to include houses and other buildings” near the target compound in the southwest govenorate, according to a U.S. Central Command review of the operation.
The combat during the nearly hourlong firefight became so intense that the SEAL team, comprised of members from the Navy’s vaunted SEAL Team Six, were forced to call in air support. In attempting to back up the embattled SEALs, American aircraft killed a number of civilians — including children — in the process, command officials admitted Wednesday.
Aside from the civilian casualties, Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens and three other team members were killed in the failed assault, designed to gather vital intelligence on the Yemeni cell seen as one of al Qaeda’s best financed and most dangerous.
Another three U.S. special operations members were wounded in the “hard landing” of a Marine Corps MV-22 helicopter carrying quick reaction forces, called in to extract the pinned down SEAL team.
It was the first U.S. casualty suffered and the first counterterrorism mission ordered under the Trump administration.
U.S. military officials told The Guardian that President Trump had given the green light for the operation without proper intelligence, ground support or support elements in place.
“Almost everything went wrong,” another senior U.S. military official told NBC News regarding the operation.
U.S. forces were able to gather information on the terror cell and kill 14 of the group’s members during the operation.
“What we got out of this mission I believe will save lives,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday.
The operation was already being planned by officials from former President Barack Obama’s White House, but the mission was ultimately held up due to operational concerns.