WASHINGTON — One American commando was killed and three others were injured in a fierce firefight overnight with Qaeda militants in central Yemen, a senior American official said Sunday morning. The raid was the first counterterrorism operation approved by President Trump since he took office nine days ago.
Commandos flying in Osprey aircraft carried out the surprise dawn attack in Bayda Province in a ground raid that lasted a little less than an hour. The target was a building or series of buildings that contained information that counterterrorism officials had deemed valuable enough to warrant a ground operation rather than an airstrike, the American official said.
Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of the Pentagon’s Central Command, said in a statement: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our elite service members. The sacrifices are very profound in our fight against terrorists who threaten innocent peoples across the globe.”
A military aircraft assisting in the operation crash-landed nearby, leaving a fourth service member injured, the statement said. That aircraft, identified by a senior American official as a V-22 Osprey sent to evacuate the troops wounded in the raid, was unable to fly after the landing and was destroyed by American airstrikes.
An estimated 14 Qaeda fighters were killed in the raid, which led to “the capture of information that will likely provide insight into the planning of future terror plots,” the statement said.
A senior American official denied reports from the region that civilian women and children were among the dead.
A little more than a week ago, suspected United States drone strikes killed three other fighters believed to be Qaeda operatives in Bayda Province in what was the first such killings reported in the country since Mr. Trump assumed the presidency.