US War on Terror Reaches Yemen

CAIRO — The US has opened a new front against the Al-Qaeda in Yemen amid reports the militant group has exploited the country's instability to regroup and build new bases, The New York Times reported on Monday, December 28.

A former top official of the CIA told the daily that the spy agency sent many of its top field operatives with counterterrorism experience to Yemen a year ago.

Senior military officers also confirmed that members of America's most secretive special operations commandos have also begun training Yemeni security forces.

The US plans to spend over $70 million in the next 18 months on training and equipping Yemeni military, police and coast guard forces.

It is also helping Yemen with military hardware and intelligence in its efforts to crack down on Al-Qaeda.

The American daily revealed last week that Washington provided Yemen with firepower and intelligence to conduct a series of deadly strikes on Al-Qaeda in the past 10 days.

"Yemen now becomes one of the centers of that fight," Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, told Fox News.

"We have a growing presence there, and we have to, of Special Operations, Green Berets, intelligence," added the influential lawmaker who visited Yemen in August.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the American regional commander, and John O. Brennan, President Barack Obama's counterterrorism adviser, paid separate secret visits to Yemen last summer.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to expanded overt and covert assistance in the fight against Al-Qaeda.

Washington fears Yemen could become Al Qaeda’s next operational and training hub.

Growing Threat

Al-Qaeda has reportedly been gaining more ground in Yemen in recent years.

"Al-Qaeda started in Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula, but it was raised and nurtured in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and other places," Yemeni terrorism expert Saeed Obaid told the Washington Post Monday.

"Now it is clear that it is coming back to its roots and growing in Yemen."

Obaid said Al-Qaeda has recently escalated efforts to exploit Yemen's instability to regroup and prepare for major operations against the US and its allies.

"Yemen has become the place to best understand Al-Qaeda and its ambitions today."

The Yemeni government is battling Shiite rebels in the north and a secessionist movement in the south.

Abdulelah Hider Shaea, a Yemeni journalist, says the group now has about 100 core operatives in addition to countless sympathizers and immense tribal support in southern and eastern provinces.

Shaea, who interviewed Al-Qaeda leader in the Arab Peninsula this year, said he saw several Muslims with Australian, German and French citizenships.

The group has launched five attacks this year, compared with 22 in 2008, said Western diplomats, noting the targets have been higher-profile.

Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the head of Saudi Arabia's counterterrorism operations, hardly escaped an Al-Qaeda suicide attack in August.

Last month, the group ambushed and killed three senior Yemeni security officers and four bodyguards in Hadramawt province.

There have been increasing Yemeni ties to plots against the US.

Washington is already investigating a possible Yemen link to an attempt by a young Nigerian to blow up a plane over Detroit on Friday.

Umar Farouk Mutallab, 23, reportedly told American investigators he got the explosive device from an Al-Qaeda associate in Yemen.

A man charged in the June 1 killing of a soldier at a recruiting center in Little Rock, Arkansas, had traveled to Yemen.

Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-born American imam, has been linked to Nidal Malik Hasan, the American Army major who faces murder charges over the Fort Hood shooting spree.

Al-Qaeda operatives bombed the US destroyer Cole in October 2000 off the port of Aden, killing 17 American sailors.

US War on Terror Reaches Yemen - IslamOnline.net - News