Navy SEALs attempted to conduct another raid inside Yemen earlier this month but aborted the mission at the last minute, according to a senior U.S. military official.
Members of SEAL Team 6 deployed to Yemen in early March for a ground assault targeting suspected members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a group U.S. officials view as the most dangerous branch of the terrorist organization. The aborted mission followed a botched January 29 raid in the village of al Ghayil, in al Bayda province. That raid left a Navy SEAL dead and two others seriously injured, and killed more than two dozen Yemeni civilians, including at least 16 women and children. The leader of AQAP, Qassim al Rimi, released a statement mocking Donald Trump and stating that 14 men died in the assault.
General Joseph Votel, who leads U.S. Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services committee last week, “We lost a lot in this operation. We lost a valued operator, we had people wounded, we caused civilian casualties, lost an expensive aircraft.”
Votel told Senators that a “determination based on our best information available is that we did cause casualties, somewhere between four and 12 casualties that we accept, I accept responsibility for.”
On March 9, The Intercept published an extensive report from al Ghayil based on the accounts of Yemeni villagers who witnessed the January 29 raid. Villagers recounted helicopter gunship fire that appeared to target women and children as they fled their homes. According to a current U.S. special operations adviser, the January raid was an attempt to kill or capture al Rimi.
After SEAL Team 6 aborted the March mission, the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, which oversees the SEAL unit, chose to target suspected AQAP personnel and facilities with drone strikes, according to the U.S. military official, who requested anonymity to discuss classified information. It could not be learned why SEAL Team 6 aborted the mission. A Pentagon spokesperson declined to comment on the aborted raid.