The airstrikes Thursday in areas under AQAP's control marked the first US combat action in Yemen's civil war since the January 29 raid and were coordinated with Yemen's nominal president, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, according to the Pentagon statement by Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a spokesman. The vast region is known for its rocky mountains, which have been used by al-Qaida as a hideout.
The strikes were spread across three provinces, Abyah, Shabwah and Bayda, the last being the same place where US Navy SEALs raided a suspected al-Qaeda compound in what the US military has called an intelligence gathering mission.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stressed that such insight was particularly important given the threat that AQAP has long posed.
Al-Qaeda has always been the dominant militant force in Yemen, located next to oil-flush Saudi Arabia and key shipping lanes, but experts say IS is seeking to supplant its extremist rival.
The U.S. raid in January killed some two dozen civilians, including Abdullah Mabkhout al-Ameri.
The attack was launched just days after President Donald Trump's inauguration. But senior USA 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.
"The strikes will degrade the AQAP's ability to coordinate external terror attacks and limit their ability to use territory seized from the legitimate government of Yemen as a safe space for terror plotting", Davis said.
Successive US administrations have carried out a drone war against Al-Qaeda in Yemen since soon after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
A week ago, Human Rights Watch called on the U.S. to investigate the January raid, saying it needs to "provide a full accounting of possible laws-of-war violations".
The group has also emerged as a de facto ally of the US-backed Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his backers Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against the Shiite rebels.
The White House and Pentagon have repeatedly described the raid as a success despite Owens' death, in that the mission gathered valuable intelligence on AQAP's activities and planned operations.
"Some of these people are believed to be in the West, but not in the United States", CNN notes of the contacts found in the raid. In 2015, the group's leader was killed in a drone strike in the southern city of Mukalla, which had fallen into the hands of al-Qaida for a year.