U.S. Special Forces in Yemen have made a major breakthrough in the fight against terrorism with the discovery of email addresses and phone numbers of al-Qaeda members.
The contacts gathered in the U.S.Navy SEAL raid in Yemen on Jan. 28 included hundreds of contacts for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in the region and the West, a U.S. official told ABC News.
The official, familiar with the intelligence gathered from the raid, told ABC News that the information included contacts for hundreds of AQAP sympathizers in the Middle East and in the West.
Obtained from computers and cellphones seized in the raid, the contacts included email addresses, messaging app identities and phone numbers, according to the official. AQAP has planned terrorist attacks against Western targets.
The U.S. military conducted more than 20 airstrikes on Thursday in three Yemeni provinces targeting AQAP militants and equipment, officials said.
A U.S. official said the strikes had long been planned and, though they were not the direct result of the January raid, intelligence from it confirmed information about the targets.
The Jan. 28 raid, conducted at night by SEAL Team Six in rural southern Yemen, was intended as an intelligence gathering mission targeting a known AQAP compound, officials said.
Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens was killed in an intense firefight that occurred during the raid, and five other American service members were wounded by enemy fire or injured in an MV-22 Osprey hard landing, officials said.
The U.S. military said that 14 AQAP fighters were killed in the raid. An ongoing U.S. Central Command review has determined that some civilians were also killed, possibly including children. Local reports in Yemen said that as many as 25 civilians may have been killed during the raid.
But there have been recent reports questioning whether any useful intelligence was gathered from the raid.
In his speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, President Trump affirmed that the mission obtained “vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemy.”
Before Trump’s address, a senior U.S. official said “valuable intelligence” was obtained in the raid.
According to that official, intelligence gathered during the raid, described in a three-page list, provided insight into AQAP’s activities — particularly the group’s recruiting, training techniques and explosives manufacturing — and whom the group is targeting.