RIYADH: Saudi and Yemeni special forces have captured the head of the Islamic State group’s branch in Yemen, the Saudi-led military coalition backing the country’s government announced Tuesday.
The leader identified as Abu Osama al-Muhajir was caught in an early June raid along with other members of the jihadist group including its chief financial officer, coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki said in a statement.
Saudi special forces in cooperation with their Yemeni counterparts “conducted a successful operation that resulted in the capture of the leader of the Daesh (IS) branch in Yemen – Abu Osama al-Muhajir,” Maliki said.
“A house kept under close surveillance proved the presence of the terror group’s leader, and other elements, along with three women and three children.”
Maliki did not specify the location of the house or where the raid was conducted, but said there were no civilian casualties.
IS and other jihadist groups have flourished in the chaos of the country’s civil war, which pits the government – backed by the Saudi-led coalition – against Shiite Huthi rebels.
IS has lost its self-styled “caliphate” across large parts of Syria and Iraq but is said to run camps and has a number of active fighters across Yemen.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), considered by the US as the radical group’s most dangerous branch, is also active in Yemen.
Last month, four suspected Al-Qaeda members were killed in a suicide attack claimed by IS in Bayda province, a local official told AFP.
A long-running US drone war against AQAP has intensified since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017.
The more than four-year conflict in Yemen has killed tens of thousands of people, many of them civilians, relief agencies say.
The fighting has triggered what the United Nations describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with millions of people displaced and in need of aid.