Thursday, December 24, 2009

Al-Qaida Fighters Killed in Yemen Air Strikes

Via The Guardian UK -

Yemeni forces backed by US intelligence have struck a series of suspected al-Qaida hideouts, including a meeting of senior leaders, killing at least 30 militants, the government said.

The air strikes on Christmas Eve were Yemen's second such assault on al-Qaida in a week, at a time when the US has dramatically increased aid to eliminate the expanding presence of the terror group.

Washington fears al-Qaida could turn fragmented, unstable Yemen into a new Afghanistan-like safe haven in a highly strategic location on the border with oil-rich US-ally Saudi Arabia.

The Pentagon recently confirmed it is has poured nearly $70m (£44m) in military aid to Yemen this year – compared to none in 2008.

The US military has also boosted its counterterrorism training for Yemeni forces, and is providing more intelligence, which may include surveillance by unmanned drones, according to US officials and analysts.

Yemen's deputy defence minister, Rashad al-Alaimy, told parliament the latest strikes were carried out "using intelligence aid from Saudi Arabia and the US".

The strikes killed three important leadership members, al-Alaimy said, but he did not identify them.

Yemeni officials refused to comment on the main target: a gathering of senior al-Qaida figures in Rafd, a remote mountain valley in eastern Shabwa province, a region where militants have been given refuge with tribes discontent with the Sana'a government.

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