Source: Reuters, By Raissa Kasolowsky 31/05/2010
SANAA -Yemen may review its methods in fighting militants after an air strike aimed at al Qaeda killed its own mediator and prompted clashes between his kinsmen and the army, Yemen's foreign minister said on Monday.
A government inquiry into last week's strike that killed Jaber al-Shabwani and four others will also investigate whether drones were involved in the operation, Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi told Reuters in an interview.
"If there was a drone, and we don't know, then we have to find out if this was used by the Yemeni security forces or by others, but we don't know how the incident happened. We will have to wait for the results of the investigation," Qirbi said.
Asked if other parties could include the United States, Qirbi said: "Yes."
Yemen, next door to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, jumped to the forefront of Western security concerns after the Yemen-based regional arm of al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the botched bombing of a U.S.-bound plane on Dec. 25.
U.S. officials said last week that the U.S. military and spy agencies have stepped up intelligence gathering using surveillance aircraft, satellites, and signals intercepts to track al Qaeda targets in and around their base in Yemen.
Qirbi said that further action by the Yemeni government in response to the killing of Shabwani, who was also deputy governor of Maarib province where the strike occurred, would depend on the outcome of the investigation.
"There can be prosecutions, there can be political security decisions on the matter. There might also be an addressing of the approach in fighting terrorist groups and terrorism in Yemen," he said.
In the days following the May 25 attack, members of Shabwani's tribe clashed with security forces and twice blew up an oil pipeline running through Maarib.
Officials said Shabwani, deputy provincial governor of Maarib, had been en route to meet al Qaeda members to seek their surrender. A top Yemeni security body expressed sorrow over Shabwani's death, calling him a martyr.
Asked about the strike, U.S. officials have said Washington plays a supporting role by helping Yemeni forces track and pinpoint targets.
Qirbi said he was not afraid of a possible backlash from Yemenis who object to U.S. interference. "This is in line with Yemen's request in fighting terrorism," he said.
"Those who want us help fight terrorism have to help us in providing us with the logistical support, with the training, with the firing power. This is what we need from them, from the Americans and others in our fight against terrorists."
After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the United States and Yemen joined forces to fight al Qaeda, and Washington has kept a close eye on developments in the country.
Yemen's prime minister told Reuters on Sunday that Yemen would not accept any attempt by the United States to assassinate radical U.S. born preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, who is wanted dead or alive by Washington and is currently in hiding in Yemen.