Military Releases Videos Seized In Yemen Raid

News Staff

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The US military released five brief video clips Friday showing for the first time some of the information seized in Sunday’s counterterrorism raid against al Qaeda in Yemen.

Five short video clips show a black-hooded figure in head-to-toe white garb standing in front of a white board and giving a lecture on bomb making. The video is titled "Courses for Destroying the Cross" and features shots of chemistry equipment and hands wearing black gloves pouring powder from one glass beaker into another holding a clear liquid.

Subtitles written by US Central Command run below the image as the instructor says, "Now we start with a practical training on how to destroy the cross with explosives. We would like as many people to graduate with this knowledge and expertise as possible."

An official at Central Command, which oversees US military operations in the Middle East, described the clips as excerpts from "al Qaeda terrorist training videos," saying the release offers "a first look" at what the military recovered.

The military said the operation, known as a "site exploitation" raid, was geared toward collecting as much intelligence on the terror group as possible in order to facilitate future raids and strikes against al Qaeda and prevent terror attacks.

In the wake of the Obama administration’s raid that killed al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, the military released videos that were among the trove of documents and computers seized in that operation.

The information comes as news has emerged regarding how the raid was authorized during the first days of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Former National Security Council staff under President Barack Obama criticized what they said were the Trump White House’s attempts to attribute the operation’s approval to the previous administration. The raid left one Navy SEAL dead, three wounded and led to civilian casualties.  

Trump provided final approval for the raid because it required a presidential green light, but it was months in the making and was approved at several levels before getting to the President’s desk. Trump staffers, military officials, and Obama-era Pentagon officials have said that the raid was also approved by commanders and Obama’s defense secretary.

Operational details, including the need for a moonless night, pushed the mission window back after January 20.

As US Navy SEALs and special forces from the UAE approached the al Qaeda compound, they were detected. An intense firefight broke out that killed Chief Petty Officer William "Ryan" Owens and wounded three additional SEALs. 

During the gun battle, which featured small arms fire, hand grenades and close air support strikes from US aircraft, al Qaeda fighters — including some female combatants — took up firing positions on the roof of a nearby building. As the US troops came under fire, they called in an airstrike against the building, which likely led to civilian casualties, military officials said.

While analysts are still going through the data, officials believe it is highly possible that information seized in the raid could help prevent future terror attacks by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The group, also known as AQAP, is thought to be the most capable of al Qaeda’s franchises and was behind a 2010 plot to put bombs on cargo planes bound for two US targets, both Jewish. In 2015, AQAP also claimed responsibility for the deadly terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris.

"The raid resulted in the seizure of materials and information that is yielding valuable intelligence to help partner nations deter and prevent future terror attacks in Yemen and across the world," Central Command said in a statement that followed the mission.

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