3 US DRONE STRIKES KILL 12 TERRORISTS IN YEMEN, OFFICIALS SAY

Fox News on August 9, 2013, reported that the U.S. has sharply escalated its drone war in Yemen, with military officials in the Arab country reporting 34 suspected Al Qaeda militants killed in less than two weeks, including three strikes on August 8 alone in which a dozen died.
Excerpts below:

The action against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the Yemen branch is known, comes amid a global terror alert issued by Washington. One Mideast official says the uptick is due to its leaders leaving themselves more vulnerable by moving from their normal hideouts toward areas where they could carry out attacks.

Thursday’s first reported drone attack hit a car carrying suspected militants in the district of Wadi Ubaidah, about 109 miles east of Sanaa, and killed six, a security official said.

Badly burned bodies lay beside their vehicle, according to the official. Five of the dead were Yemenis, while the sixth was believed to be of another Arab nationality, he said.

The second drone attack killed three alleged militants in the al-Ayoon area of Hadramawt province in the south, the official said. The third, also in Hadramawt province, killed three more suspected militants in the al-Qutn area, he added.

All the airstrikes targeted cars, added the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

The drone strikes have become a near-daily routine since they began July 27. So far, they have been concentrated in remote, mountainous areas where Al Qaeda’s top five leaders are believed to have taken refuge.

While the United States acknowledges its drone program in Yemen, it does not talk about individual strikes or release information on how many are carried out. The program is run by the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command and the CIA, with the military flying its drones out of Djibouti, and the CIA out of a base in Saudi Arabia.

Since July 27, drone attacks have killed 34 suspected militants, according to an Associated Press count based on information provided by Yemeni security officials.

The terror network’s Yemeni offshoot bolstered its operations in Yemen more than a decade after key Saudi operatives fled here following a major crackdown in their homeland. The drone strikes and a U.S.-backed offensive that began in June 2012 have driven militants from towns and large swaths of land they had seized a year earlier, during Yemen’s political turmoil amid the Arab Spring.

A U.S. intelligence official and a Mideast diplomat have told the AP that the embassy closures were triggered by the interception of a secret message between Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri and Nasser al-Wahishi, the leader of the Yemen-based offshoot, about plans for a major attack.

Authorities in Yemen said they had discovered Al Qaeda plot to target foreign embassies in Sanaa and international shipping in the Red Sea.

Yemeni authorities said this week that a group of Al Qaeda militants have entered Sanaa and other cities to carry attacks. It issued list of 25 Al Qaeda wanted militants. The Yemeni statement said security forces will pay $23,000 to anyone who comes forward with information that leads to the arrests of any of the wanted men.

The discovery of the Al Qaeda plot prompted the Defense Ministry to step up security around the strategic Bab el-Mandeb waterway, which connects the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden. Officials were banning speedboats or fishing vessels from the area.

Details of the plot were reminiscent of the suicide attack on the USS Cole in 2000 in Aden harbor that killed 17 American sailors.

One local political analyst suggests the latest plots were floated by the group to show it is still a formidable force.

“Al Qaeda has suffered losses and it is trying to make an impression,” said analyst Ali al-Sarari, who is close to the Yemeni government. “The mere talk about an upcoming attack gives the group a chance to restore its shattered image … as a group capable of exporting terrorism.”

A senior security official told AP that the Al Qaeda leaders never meet together out of fear of a drone attack killing all of them at once. These include al-Wahishi, a onetime aide to Osama bin Laden; Qassem al-Raimi, believed to be the military commander; and Ibrahim al-Asiri.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to brief the media, said al-Wahishi is believed to be trying to recruit informants in the mountainous areas of Marib in central Yemen, especially in the Wadi Ubaidah valley, where tribal allies of ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh are concentrated.

Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi became president in 2012 after a year of mass protests demanding Saleh’s ouster.

Marib is one of the few places known to be Al Qaeda strongholds, and the Yemeni military has not tried to carry out a large offensive there because of the strong presence of anti-government tribes.

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