Riyadh ‘joins’ US on strikes against Yemen
LONDON - Agence France-PresseSaudi Arabia has provided fighter jets to assist the United States with its drone strikes against al-Qaeda targets in Yemen, the London Times reported on Jan. 4.
The Times cited a U.S. intelligence source as saying that “some of the so-called drone missions are actually Saudi Air Force missions.”
U.S. drones are backing Yemeni forces combating militants of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The group’s Yemen branch is considered by Washington to be the most active and deadliest franchise of the global jihadist network.
U.S. drone attacks in Yemen nearly tripled in 2012 compared to 2011, according to the Washington-based think tank New America Foundation, and for the first time totaled more than in Pakistan last year.
A new U.S. drone strike on Jan. 3 killed three al-Qaeda suspects in the town of Rada in Yemen’s central al-Bayda province, the site of similar recent attacks, tribal sources there said.
AQAP took advantage of the weakness of Yemen’s central government during an uprising in 2011 against now ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, seizing large swathes of territory across the south.
But after a month-long offensive launched in May last year by Yemeni troops, most militants fled to the more lawless desert regions of the east.