(CNN) — Dozens of militants have been killed in a massive anti-terror operation in Yemen and it’s not over yet.
Yemeni officials are calling the operation massive and unprecedented, killing at least 65 militants tied to the feared al Qaeda affiliate “al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula”, with more raids still under way.
Elite Yemeni units on the ground, backed by drones from the skies. Two separate strikes this weekend targeted senior members of the group. Though American officials have refused to comment, the US is the only country known to operate drones in Yemen.
“We don’t comment on the details of counter-terrorism collaboration with our foreign partners, so I don’t have more to share with you, but of course, as I noted, we have a strong working relationship,” Jen Psaki, State Department spokeswoman said.
Terror analysts tell CNN that an operation of this scope would be unlikely without high-ranking terror leaders on the target list.
Believed to be among them, Ibrahim al-Asiri, master bomb maker known for designing the 2009 Christmas Day underwear bomb, and more recently, suspected of refining the design for shoe bombs to get them past airport security. No identities of those killed have yet been confirmed.
“They’re the ones who created Inspire Magazine that inspired Boston bombers. The fact of the administration is going aggressively against these terrorists is a very positive sign, given the prior narrative that ‘al Qaeda’s on the run and this is all over,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R) Homeland Security Committee Chairman said on ABC’s “This Week.”
The drone strikes come just a week after CNN aired a video showing a large and bold gathering of the group in broad daylight near to where the current operation is underway.
US intelligence officials consider the group a direct and growing threat to Americans.
“This is the one al Qaeda affiliate which has time and again been interested, willing and able to try and strike the US homeland… So some drone strikes may disrupt the group’s ability to conduct attacks both in Yemen and overseas, but if you don’t control this territory and right now the Yemeni government doesn’t nor does the US, the group will still pose a major, major threat,” Seth Jones, RAND said.