Rise in US drone attacks on al-Qaeda targets in Yemen



BALAD AIR FORCE BASE, IRAQ -SEPTEMBER 15: A crew chief from the 46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron completes a post flight inspections of the RQ-1 Predator after one of its sorties September 15, 2004 in Balad Air Base, Iraq. The RQ-1is a medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle. (Photo by Rob Jensen/USAF via Getty Images)
Sky wars … the US employs Predator drone aircraft to attack al-Qaeda targets in Yemen. Photo: US Air Force
LONDON: The US has dramatically stepped up its ''secret war'' in Yemen, ordering dozens of drone attacks on al-Qaeda hot spots, which have also killed scores of civilians.
With the backing of Yemen's fragile government, President Barack Obama has authorised a rapid increase in attacks since May, with 26 incidents recorded.
The pace appears to be accelerating, with nine attacks so far this year and at least five this month, including a strike last week near the terrorist hotbed of Zinjibar. Up to 30 militants were killed in three separate missile strikes on the town, witnesses said.
Nationwide, the figures are comparable to those in Pakistan, where America has struck on 10 occasions this year, despite a fierce public reaction.
Research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism at London's City University has found that as many as 516 people have been killed in the Yemen attacks - mostly suspected members of al-Qaeda's local ally al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). As many as 104 were civilians.
The majority of the attacks were carried out by the CIA or US special forces command from a base in nearby Dijbouti but American officials refused to confirm any details. Mr Obama has made plain his determination to go after AQAP, which he has described as ''a network of violence and terror''. It has attracted a number of US citizens to its cause, including the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
Awlaki was killed last September, with Samir Khan, the editor of AQAP's English-language propaganda magazine Inspire, which had been blamed for recruiting Western-raised youths.
Days later a follow-up attack killed other militants - as well as Awlaki's 16-year old son and 17-year-old nephew - disabling AQAP's ability to speak to an English-language audience.
Elizabeth Quintana, an analyst at the Royal United Services Institute, said America had secured the tacit backing of Yemeni leaders, but was still at risk of becoming embroiled in Yemen's internal turmoil. ''The strikes in Yemen are government-permitted if not government-sponsored and are a very effective way to hit terrorist camps,'' she said. ''But because there is a general uprising against the government of Yemen there is a concern about the accuracy of intelligence and groups using America's firepower for their own purposes.''
The increase in attacks this month appears linked to the installation of a new president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. In his recent inauguration speech he called for ''the continuation of war against al-Qaeda as a religious and national duty''.
Despite multiple reports of US military action in Yemen, the US rarely acknowledges its secret war. This week a US State Department spokesman would say only that ''I refer you to the government of Yemen for additional information on its counter-terrorism efforts''.
However a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks reported conversations between General David Petraeus - now the head of the CIA - and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh discussing a US attack in December 2009 in which civilians were killed.
Campaigners have called on the US to take responsibility for its covert war.


Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/rise-in-us-drone-attacks-on-alqaeda-targets-in-yemen-20120329-1w0zy.html#ixzz1qZBjfpXs

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Rise in US drone attacks on al-Qaeda targets in Yemen


BALAD AIR FORCE BASE, IRAQ -SEPTEMBER 15: A crew chief from the 46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron completes a post flight inspections of the RQ-1 Predator after one of its sorties September 15, 2004 in Balad Air Base, Iraq. The RQ-1is a medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle. (Photo by Rob Jensen/USAF via Getty Images)
Sky wars … the US employs Predator drone aircraft to attack al-Qaeda targets in Yemen. Photo: US Air Force
LONDON: The US has dramatically stepped up its ''secret war'' in Yemen, ordering dozens of drone attacks on al-Qaeda hot spots, which have also killed scores of civilians.
With the backing of Yemen's fragile government, President Barack Obama has authorised a rapid increase in attacks since May, with 26 incidents recorded.
The pace appears to be accelerating, with nine attacks so far this year and at least five this month, including a strike last week near the terrorist hotbed of Zinjibar. Up to 30 militants were killed in three separate missile strikes on the town, witnesses said.
Nationwide, the figures are comparable to those in Pakistan, where America has struck on 10 occasions this year, despite a fierce public reaction.
Research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism at London's City University has found that as many as 516 people have been killed in the Yemen attacks - mostly suspected members of al-Qaeda's local ally al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). As many as 104 were civilians.
The majority of the attacks were carried out by the CIA or US special forces command from a base in nearby Dijbouti but American officials refused to confirm any details. Mr Obama has made plain his determination to go after AQAP, which he has described as ''a network of violence and terror''. It has attracted a number of US citizens to its cause, including the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
Awlaki was killed last September, with Samir Khan, the editor of AQAP's English-language propaganda magazine Inspire, which had been blamed for recruiting Western-raised youths.
Days later a follow-up attack killed other militants - as well as Awlaki's 16-year old son and 17-year-old nephew - disabling AQAP's ability to speak to an English-language audience.
Elizabeth Quintana, an analyst at the Royal United Services Institute, said America had secured the tacit backing of Yemeni leaders, but was still at risk of becoming embroiled in Yemen's internal turmoil. ''The strikes in Yemen are government-permitted if not government-sponsored and are a very effective way to hit terrorist camps,'' she said. ''But because there is a general uprising against the government of Yemen there is a concern about the accuracy of intelligence and groups using America's firepower for their own purposes.''
The increase in attacks this month appears linked to the installation of a new president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. In his recent inauguration speech he called for ''the continuation of war against al-Qaeda as a religious and national duty''.
Despite multiple reports of US military action in Yemen, the US rarely acknowledges its secret war. This week a US State Department spokesman would say only that ''I refer you to the government of Yemen for additional information on its counter-terrorism efforts''.
However a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks reported conversations between General David Petraeus - now the head of the CIA - and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh discussing a US attack in December 2009 in which civilians were killed.
Campaigners have called on the US to take responsibility for its covert war.


Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/rise-in-us-drone-attacks-on-alqaeda-targets-in-yemen-20120329-1w0zy.html#ixzz1qZBjfpXs

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