Thursday, 5 May 2011

Yemeni official: U.S. drone strike kills 2 al-Qaeda operatives

Source: Washington Post

By Jeb Boone 05\04\2011

Two al-Qaeda operatives were killed in an apparent U.S. drone strike in the remote, mountainous Yemeni governorate of Shabwa early Thursday, according to a Yemeni security official.

The information about the strike came from Col. Hamid Saleh, security director of the Mayfaa district in the Shabwa governorate. He said the men were killed when a missile struck their car.

A Yemeni government spokesman, while not confirming that the missile was fired by a U.S. drone, identified the dead men as brothers Musaed Mubarak Aldaghery and Abdullah Mubarak Aldaghery.

The two men were active in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, officials said. Even before the killing this week of Osama bin Laden, American government officials had warned that the al-Qaeda branch in Yemen had emerged as a more active and dangerous foe than the core group of al-Qaeda led by its central command in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“Security authorities were tracking them down for some time,” the Yemeni spokesman said of the Aldaghery brothers. “They are known operational al-Qaeda fighters.”

The Obama administration deployed armed drones under the command of Joint Special Operations Command to Yemen in 2010 to boost efforts to strike at al-Qaeda targets suspected of plotting attacks against the United States.

If confirmed, Thursday’s strike would appear to be the first such use of an unmanned drone by the U.S. military since the drones were deployed. In several other strikes over the last 18 months, the American military has used fighter aircraft and cruise missiles to strike at al-Qaeda targets in Yemen.

Yemen has been wracked for months with anti-government protests calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to relinquish power.

American officials have said the political upheaval was interfering with efforts by the United States and Yemen to cooperate on counterterrorism operations.

Recent attacks in Marib have caused widespread power outages and fuel shortages in the capital Sanaa, further fueling anti-government sentiment and unrest. In the past week, power stations in Marib have been attacked seven times.

“We demand that [the Yemeni government] give us the truth about these drone strikes, otherwise disastrous things will happen to either Americans or Yemenis,” Ibrahim al-Shabawi, the brother of a tribal leader slain in an earlier American attack, said in a recent interview.

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