Unmanned aerial drones struck two ISIS training camps in central Yemen for the first time in the country’s conflict, leaving an unknown number of dead, security sources told AFP Monday.
Witnesses said villagers were prevented by tribal leaders from approaching the area and retrieving the dead and wounded for fear of additional strikes.
Locals said the camps, both in Bayda province, were named after prominent ISIS figures: Yemen chief Abu Bilal al-Harbi and former global spokesman Abu Mohamed al-Adnani, killed last summer in a US air strike.
This is the first time security sources loyal to Yemen’s internationally recognized government have announced raids against ISIS footholds.
ISIS and its militant rival al-Qaeda have taken advantage of a conflict between the government and Houthi militants, who control the capital Sanaa, to bolster their presence across much of the south.
ISIS, however, has risen to prominence in the country’s civil war targeting both army recruits of the government and Yemeni Shiites, which it considers heretics.
It entered the war in March 2015 with a series of attacks on Shiite mosques in the capital, leaving more than 140 people dead.
The group’s last major attack was a suicide bombing in the government stronghold of Aden last December, which killed 48 soldiers.
Al-Qaeda has distanced itself from ISIS attacks, claiming that it seeks to avoid “the shedding of any Muslim blood” while focusing on fighting the “Americans and their allies.”