Official: Yemen raid yields data on al-Qaida explosives

US uses unmanned aerial systems in gathering intelligence.

US special operations forces gathered valuable intelligence on the al-Qaida affiliate in Yemen in a raid last month, including data on the explosives they’re manufacturing and the types of threats they’re developing, a senior U.S. official said Tuesday.

President Donald Trump, in a speech to a joint session of Congress, sought to rebut the notion the raid didn’t yield valuable information. Trump said he’d been reassured of that fact just before his speech by Defense Secretary James Mattis.

Among those killed was Chief Special Warfare Officer William “Ryan” Owens. Six American soldiers were wounded and a military aircraft had to be destroyed after a hard landing. The assault took place days after Trump’s inauguration.

“Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies,” Trump said, quoting Mattis.

The US official said a list describing the broad range of intelligence gains from the raid fills more than three pages. It includes information on al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula’s training techniques and targeting priorities, said the official, who wasn’t able to discuss details of the classified military operation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Such intelligence gives insight into the group’s attack planning.

Questions have been raised about the effectiveness of the operation that ended in a fierce firefight. In addition to Owens, 14 militants and several civilians were killed. But senior US and military officials – including Trump – have insisted the raid was a success and that the military collected critical information, including computers, cellphones and other data.

Owens’ widow, Carryn Owens, was seated during Trump’s speech next to the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump. Trump noted her presence in the emotional high point of his speech, leading to a long standing ovation as Owens, visibly crying, held her hands together and looked up to the sky while mouthing “thank you.”

“Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero, battling against terrorism and securing our nation,” Trump said.

Trump has said the raid gleaned “important intelligence that will assist the US in preventing terrorism against its citizens and people around the world.”

The senior official said the fierce fight put up by militants inside the compound in Yemen testified to the value of the material they held.

Owen’s father, Bill, has called for an investigation into the raid’s planning and criticized the Trump administration for its timing.

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