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Airstrike Targets Al-Qaida Camps       04/20 13:56

   SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- An airstrike targeting suspected al-Qaida training 
camps in a rugged mountain region in southern Yemen killed a number of fighters 
Sunday, a high-level government security committee said, without specifying a 
casualty figure.

   The Supreme Security Committee, which includes the defense and interior 
ministers, as well as the country's intelligence chief, said the attack struck 
the rugged Mahfad mountains between Abyan and Shabwa provinces. But its 
statement did not identify who carried out the attack.

   The U.S. regularly carries out drone strikes in Yemen against its local 
al-Qaida branch, which Washington considers the most active in the world.

   The official news agency SABA quoted an unnamed official from the security 
committee who said those killed in the strike included foreigners and suspected 
leading figures in al-Qaida. It was not possible to independently verify a 
casualty figure because of the difficulties of getting to the remote area where 
the strike took place. The committee said the suspected al-Qaida members were 
plotting to target vital military and civilian installations, without 
elaborating.

   This is the second strike targeting al-Qaida since Saturday, when a 
suspected U.S. drone strike in al-Bayda province in southern Yemen killed at 
least nine suspected al-Qaida militants and three civilians. The Supreme 
Committee said the airstrike was carried by Yemeni authorities.

   The conflicting details of Saturday's attack could not be immediately 
reconciled.

   The U.S. considers Yemen's branch of al-Qaida, also known as Al-Qaida in the 
Arabian Peninsula, to be the most dangerous in the world. The group is blamed 
for a number of unsuccessful bomb plots aimed at Americans, including an 
attempt to bring down a U.S.-bound airliner with explosive hidden in the 
bomber's underwear and a second plot to send mail bombs hidden in the toner 
cartridges on planes headed to the U.S.

   It overran much of Yemen's south in 2011. Yemen's army, supported by U.S. 
military experts and drone strikes, has pushed them back, but clashes and 
al-Qaida attacks in Yemen continue.

   However, civilian casualties in the strikes have sparked anger in the 
country and among human rights groups. According to the nonpartisan public 
policy institute New America Foundation, the U.S. has launched more than 100 
drone strikes in Yemen since 2002.

   There was no immediate U.S. comment on the strike. The U.S. will acknowledge 
drone strikes carried out by its military, but typically not those done in CIA 
operations.

   The recent strikes come after the return of Yemen's defense minister and 
team of his commanders from the U.S. following a two-week visit.


(KA)


 
 
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