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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Saleh out of intensive care, US ups its covert war against Qaeda in Yemen

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is out of intensive care after “successful” surgery in Riyadh, where he is being treated for bomb blast wounds, the official Saba news agency said.

The new agency reported that celebratory gunfire and fireworks erupted during Wednesday night as President Saleh’s supporters took to the streets in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a “feting the success of the surgery... and his transfer from intensive care to a royal suite” in a military hospital in the Saudi capital.

Amid power vacuum in Yemen, the US has intensified its covert war against Al Qaeda linked militants in the south of the country, The New York Times reported, citing US officials.

Embroiled with a chaotic political scene and continuous revolts calling for the ouster of Mr. Saleh, the US was prompted to intensify its covert war tactics to preemptively disallow Al Qaeda-linked militants from assuming power.

US officials told the New York Times that they see the strikes as one of the few options to contain Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

The use of force has also been complicated by extremists mingling with other rebel groups and anti-regime movements, according to a senior Pentagon official cited by The Times, as it makes it more difficult for the United States to attack Al Qaeda without appearing to pick sides in the internal conflict.

Earlier Wednesday, Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the conflict in the Arabian Peninsula country was making the Al Qaeda terror network more “dangerous.”

Al Qaeda in Yemen “has grown into a very virulent deadly federated point in the Al Qaeda organization,” Admiral Mullen said in Cairo. “It is incredibly dangerous and made more dangerous in the ongoing chaos.”

Admiral Mullen meanwhile warned any further deterioration of the security situation in the impoverished country might have global implications.

“The downside of a much more chaotic and much more violent Yemen is not just bad for Yemen, it's bad for the region, it's bad for the world,” he said. “I would certainly urge leaders from every side of this challenge to be calm and try to resolve the issues peacefully.”

The US recent operations in Yemen were re-activated after a year of being halted due to bad intelligence that led to civilian deaths, The Times said.

US and Saudi spy services have been receiving more information from electronic eavesdropping and informants about possible locations of militants, the newspaper said. But there were concerns that with the wider conflict in Yemen, factions might feed information to trigger air strikes against rival groups.

The US ambassador in Yemen met recently with opposition leaders, partly to make the case for continuing operations in case President Saleh’s government falls, the newspaper said.

Opposition leaders have told the ambassador that operations against Al Qaeda in Yemen should continue regardless of who wins the power struggle in the capital, the Times said, citing officials in Washington.

US missions in Yemen date back in 2009 when Mr. Saleh initially authorized it but insisted that all military operations to be conducted by Yemeni troops.

The US included all of its armed drones, fighter jets to accelerate its combat attack against the militants over the past few weeks as the government in Sana’a teeters.
Meanwhile, a US official confirmed to Reuters that a US strike last Friday killed Abu Ali Al Harithi, a midlevel Al Qaeda operative, which followed last month’s attempted strike against Anwar Al Awlaki, the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen has been linked to the attempt to blow up a trans-Atlantic jetliner on Christmas Day 2009 and a plot last year to blow up cargo planes with bombs hidden in printer cartridges.

(Dina Al-Shibeeb, a senior editor at Al Arabiya English ,

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