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US may use drones to eliminate Yemeni Al Qaeda

June 16, 2011 - Washington

The Central Investigation Agency (CIA) is reported to be mulling the use of unmanned drones to target high value Al Qaeda extremists living in Yemen.

The new campaign is likely to avoid any ground attacks.

Top Yemeni officials have said they are cooperating with the US despite the absence of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in Saudi Arabia since unrest broke in the country in February.

The focus by US intelligence, which CIA Director Leon Panetta announced at a Senate hearing earlier this month, resembles a campaign in Pakistan's tribal regions, particularly in the use of drones. As in Pakistan, where the objective is to thwart extremists who cross over to attack in neighboring Afghanistan, the Yemen campaign also has a regional aspect, The Christian Science Monitor reports.

"Our approach has been to develop operations in each of these areas (Yemen, Somalia, and North Africa) that will contain Al Qaeda and go after them so they have no place to escape," Panetta told the Senate earlier this month.

The US has stepped up attacks, mainly by drones in recent weeks. Saleh approved the use of the strikes in 2009, publicly declaring that they were being carried out by the Yemeni air force.

There is consensus in Washington that Al Qaeda remains a threat, giving President Obama virtually no opposition to what amounts to a covert war in Yemen.


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