Soldiers at demonstration in Yemen 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON - The Obama administration has intensified air strikes on suspected militants in Yemen in a bid to keep them from consolidating power as the government in Sanaa teeters, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
RELATED:Al Jazeera: Yemeni VP is declared acting leader400 wounded in Yemen as protesters, police clash
A US official confirmed to Reuters that a US strike last Friday killed Abu Ali Harithi, a midlevel al-Qaida operative, which followed last month's attempted strike against Anwar Awlaki, the leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
Citing US officials, the Times said a US campaign using armed drones and fighter jets had accelerated in recent weeks as US officials see the strikes as one of the few options to contain al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
With the country in violent conflict, Yemeni troops that had been
battling militants linked to al-Qaida in the south have been pulled back
to Sanaa, the newspaper said.
Yemen's authoritarian president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, was wounded on
Friday and is being treated in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. He appears to
have been wounded by a bombing at a mosque inside his palace, not a
rocket attack as first thought, US and Arab officials told Reuters.
There were conflicting reports about his condition -- ranging from fairly minor, to life-threatening 40 percent burns.
There had been nearly a yearlong pause in US airstrikes after concerns
that poor intelligence had resulted in civilian deaths that undercut
goals of the secret campaign.
US and Saudi spy services have been receiving more information from
electronic eavesdropping and informants about possible locations of
militants, the newspaper said, citing officials in Washington. But there
were concerns that with the wider conflict in Yemen, factions might
feed information to trigger air strikes against rival groups.
The operations were further complicated by al-Qaida operatives' mingling
with other rebel and anti-government militants, the newspaper said,
citing a senior Pentagon official.
The US ambassador in Yemen met recently with opposition leaders,
partly to make the case for continuing operations in case Saleh's
government falls, the newspaper said.
Opposition leaders have told the ambassador that operations against al-Qaida in Yemen should continue regardless of who wins the power struggle
in the capital, the Times said, citing officials in Washington.
Al-Qaida's affiliate in Yemen has been linked to the attempt to blow up a
trans-Atlantic jetliner on Christmas Day 2009 and a plot last year to
blow up cargo planes with bombs hidden in printer cartridges.