Almost everything on the mission that could go wrong did. A Yemeni tribal sheikh said the Qaeda fighters were somehow tipped off to the troops’ stealthy advance toward the village — perhaps by the whine of American drones that the tribal leader said were flying lower and louder than usual.
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The assault force, which also included elite troops from the United Arab Emirates, quickly found itself under intense fire from all sides — even from female combatants who unexpectedly took up weapons from assigned fighting positions — forcing the Americans to call in strikes from helicopter gunships and attack planes.