ABC News's Brian Ross reported Friday that "On orders from President Barack Obama, the U.S. military launched cruise missiles early Thursday against two suspected al-Qaeda sites in Yemen," killing "[a]s many as 120 people."[1]  --  A Yemeni official told CNN that a "leading al Qaeda figure" was killed.[2]  --  The New York Times, relying on unnamed "officials familiar with the operations," said the U.S. had provided "firepower, intelligence, and other support to the government of Yemen."[3]  --  American officials said little because of "a desire to make clear that the Yemeni government was in the lead in counterterrorism operations within its borders" and "a great reluctance among leaders of many Muslim nations to have any cooperation with the United States on counterterrorism operations made known," Thom Shanker and Mark Landler said.  --  But Al Jazeera said a spokesman for the Yemeni Embassy in Washington spoke of U.S. missile strikes.[4]  --  Al Jazeera said that "Residents of Abyan said that there was no al-Qaeda training camp in the area and that the raids had destroyed several homes," and "Abbas al-Assal, a local human rights activist who was at the scene, said 64 people were killed, including 23 children and 17 women."  --  "Ali Mohammed Mansour, gave similar casualty figures, and said that he helped bury the dead in a mass grave," and "[a] provincial security official said that 'grave mistakes occurred in the operation due to failures of information, which led to a large number of civilian deaths.'"  --  The Washington Post reported that "In the past week, Yemeni news media have carried reports of unmanned aircraft conducting apparent surveillance operations near the city of Marib in central Yemen.  Marib is also the location of a 2002 strike by a U.S. drone that killed the reputed head of al-Qaeda in Yemen, Abu Ali al-Harithi, who was suspected to have organized the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000.  Local media accounts suggested that a U.S. attack might again be imminent, because the 2002 strike also was preceded by sightings of drone aircraft over the city."[5]  --  Gulf News said the Yemeni government had "warned its citizens against cooperating with Al Qaida operatives who escaped a government crackdown on Thursday."[6]  --  CBS said it had confirmed that "U.S. warplanes made airstrikes yesterday on suspected al Qaeda positions in Yemen" and an unnamed diplomat told CBS News that "between one-quarter to one-third of al Qaeda's units in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region are now led by non-Arabs," with "militants from the central Asian former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan and Afghanistan were now either 'holding permanent or temporary charge of these units,' as some of al Qaeda's most hardened fighters head out of the region for Yemen, which he described as 'their new frontier.'"[7]  --  A Reuters follow-up piece on criticism of the operation by the opposition in Yemen indicated among that the groups targeted were rebel groups involved in a civil war.[8]  --  In a report last Sunday noting that "Yemen is the ancestral home of Osama Bin Laden," the London Telegraph reported that "Sunni fundamentalists have gained a foothold within Yemen's tribes as popular anger has strengthened against the dictatorship of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power for 30 years."[9]  --  "The government is also in the grip of a war with Shia insurgents which has encroached on the border with Saudi Arabia and left Yemen incapable of concentrating on tackling the al-Qaeda threat," said Damien McElroy.  --  He added that "U.S. special forces have been sent to Yemen to train its army amid fears the unstable Arab state is becoming a strategically important base for al-Qaeda."  --  COMMENT: The cruise missile strikes occurred exactly one week after Barack Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo....


1.

The Blotter from Brian Ross

OBAMA ORDERED U.S. MILITARY STRIKE ON YEMEN TERRORISTS

By Brian Ross, Richard Esposito, Matthew Cole, Luis Martinez, and Kirit Radia

ABC News
December 18, 2009

http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/cruise-missiles-strike-yemen/story


On orders from President Barack Obama, the U.S. military launched cruise missiles early Thursday against two suspected al-Qaeda sites in Yemen, administration officials told ABC News in a report broadcast on ABC World News with Charles Gibson.

One of the targeted sites was a suspected al Qaeda training camp north of the capitol, Sanaa, and the second target was a location where officials said "an imminent attack against a U.S. asset was being planned."

The Yemen attacks by the U.S. military represent a major escalation of the Obama administration's campaign against al Qaeda.

In his speech about added troops for Afghanistan earlier this month, President Obama made a brief reference to Yemen, saying, "Where al Qaeda and its allies attempt to establish a foothold -- whether in Somalia or Yemen or elsewhere -- they must be confronted by growing pressure and strong partnerships."

Until tonight, American officials had hedged about any U.S. role in the strikes against Yemen and news reports from Yemen attributed the attacks to the Yemen Air Force.

President Obama placed a call after the strikes to "congratulate" the President of Yemen, Ali Abdallah Salih, on his efforts against al Qaeda, according to White House officials.

A Yemeni official at the country's embassy in Washington insisted to ABC News Friday that the Thursday attacks were "planned and executed" by the Yemen government and police.

Along with the two U.S. cruise missile attacks, Yemen security forces carried out raids in three separate locations.  As many as 120 people were killed in the three raids, according to reports from Yemen, and opposition leaders said many of the dead were innocent civilians.

American officials said the missile strikes were intended to disrupt a growing threat from the al Qaeda branch in Yemen, which claims to coordinate terror attacks against neighboring Saudi Arabia.

The al Qaeda presence in Yemen has been steadily growing in the last two years.  "Al Qaeda generally has been pushed into these ungoverned areas, whether it is the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area [or Yemen]," said Richard Barrett, coordinator of the U.N.'s Taliban al-Qaeda Sancitions Monitoring Committee.  "I think many of the key people have moved to Yemen."

The U.S. embassy was attacked by suspected al Qaeda gunmen last year.

And the presumed leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, Qaaim al-Raymi, has frequently appeared on internet videos, offering an alternative to the training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"If they can go to Yemen just as easily or easier and get training there and come out again," said Barrett, "all your efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan are a waste of time."

Qaaim al-Raymi was considered a prime target of the attack Thursday but was reported to have escaped the attack.  However, U.S. officials believe one of his top deputies may have been killed.

2.

SOURCE: YEMEN AIRSTRIKE KILLS AL QAEDA DEPUTY

By Mohammed Jamjoon

CNN
December 18, 2009

An airstrike in Yemen earlier this week killed a leading al Qaeda figure there, a Yemeni government official said Friday.

The official, who is not named because he is not authorized to speak to the media, told CNN that Mohammed Saleh Mohammed Ali Al-Kazemi was killed in an airstrike in the southern province of Abyan on Thursday, along with "scores of operatives."

Al-Kazemi, also known as AbuSaleh Aljadwe, was a deputy in an al Qaeda cell in Abyan, the official said.

The airstrike was accompanied by raids in Abyan and in Yemen's capital Sanaa, state news agency SABA reported Thursday.

"This was the most large scale and substantial attack carried out against al Qaeda in Yemen this year," the official said.

The airstrike targeted a training camp with tents.  Yemeni forces surrounded the camp and captured some of the injured and other operatives escaped through the mountainous terrain, the official said.

On Thursday, SABA reported that security forces had killed 34 suspected terrorists and arrested 17 who were linked to al Qaeda.

Believed to be in his late 30s, Al-Kazemi was on a Yemeni most wanted list of 154 al Qaeda-linked militants, the official said.

He was implicated in planning the July 2007 suicide attack that killed nine people, including seven Spanish tourists at the Sun temple in the province of Marib, the official said.  No further details about his involvement in that incident were immediately available.

The al Qaeda deputy also provided safe haven to foreign al Qaeda militants operating in Yemen, the official said.

The official also said that Qassim Al-Raymi, the military commander for al Qaeda in Yemen and two "known" accomplices were able to flee before Yemeni forces were able to get to them.

Al Qaeda in Yemen has been a growing concern for the country's government and the United States.

A spokesman for the Yemeni embassy in Washington stressed Friday the need for international assistance in effectively combatting terrorism in the country.

"We continue to invite our international partners to foster economic opportunity and security in Yemen," Mohammed Albasha said.  "Law enforcement and counterterrorism assistance programs will strengthen our capabilities and help build expertise at field levels but without development assistance, counterterrorism efforts will be undermined in the long term.  We can no longer afford to ignore the connection between poverty and terrorism."

3.

World

Middle East

U.S. AIDS YEMENI RAIDS ON AL QAEDA, OFFICIALS SAY

By Thom Shanker and Mark Landler

New York Times

December 18, 2009

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/19/world/middleeast/19yemen.html


WASHINGTON -- The United States provided firepower, intelligence, and other support to the government of Yemen as it carried out raids this week to strike at suspected hide-outs of Al Qaeda within its borders, according to officials familiar with the operations.

The officials said that the American support was approved by President Obama and came at the request of the Yemeni government.

The American contributions were intended to help Yemen to prevent Al Qaeda from mounting attacks against American and other foreign targets inside its borders.  Officials declined to say whether those targets were embassies, businesses, schools, or other sites.

Yemeni officials said their security forces had killed at least 34 militants in the broadest attack on the terrorist group in years.  A range of Pentagon, military, and intelligence officials declined to provide details of the reported attacks, which, according to ABC News, included American missiles.  But officials in Washington offered words of support for the government of Yemen in tackling international terrorism.  “Yemen should be commended for actions against Al Qaeda,” said Bryan G. Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman.  “Al Qaeda poses a serious threat to Yemeni, U.S., and regional interests.”

Reluctance among administration officials to comment on whether American forces had launched missiles into Yemen appeared to reflect a desire to make clear that the Yemeni government was in the lead in counterterrorism operations within its borders.  There is a great reluctance among leaders of many Muslim nations to have any cooperation with the United States on counterterrorism operations made known.  American officials said some of the strikes against suspected terrorist camps in Yemen earlier in the week were carried out solely by local forces.

American officials said this past summer that they were seeing the first evidence that dozens of fighters with Al Qaeda, and a small handful of the terrorist group’s leaders, were moving to Somalia and Yemen from Pakistan.  In communications that were being monitored at the Pentagon, the White House, and the C.I.A., the terrorist groups in all three locations had begun communicating more frequently, and apparently trying to coordinate their actions, the officials said.

Yemen has long been a haven for jihadists.  Al Qaeda has mounted frequent attacks against foreign embassies and Yemeni officials.  Last month, it claimed credit for an attack on a government convoy in Yemen’s remote eastern desert in which three top provincial officials and three of their guards were killed.

4.

'U.S. AIDED' DEADLY YEMEN RAIDS


Al Jazeera
December 19, 2009

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/12/2009121954017137936.html


The U.S. provided firepower and intelligence to help the Yemeni government launch a series of deadly raids against suspected al-Qaeda bases in the country, the *New York Times* has reported.

Barack Obama, the U.S. president approved the military and intelligence support after receiving a request from the Yemeni government, the newspaper reported late on Friday, citing officials familiar with the operations.

Yemeni security officials said that at least 34 suspected al-Qaeda fighters were killed on Thursday in the raids, which targeted sites in the southern province of Abyan and in the district of Arhab, which lies northeast of the capital Sanaa.

Mohammed Albasha, a spokesman for the Yemeni embassy in Washington, told the Associate Press that the U.S. launched missiles during the raids.

'MANY MORE KILLED'


Those killed and arrested in Arhab "planned to strike at schools as well as interests at home and abroad," Yemen's interior ministry said on Thursday, without elaborating.

Residents of Abyan said that there was no al-Qaeda training camp in the area and that the raids had destroyed several homes.

Abbas al-Assal, a local human rights activist who was at the scene, said 64 people were killed, including 23 children and 17 women.

"The government wants to show the world that it is serious in pursuing al-Qaeda elements and that the south of Yemen is a refuge for al-Qaeda.  That is not true at all," al-Assal told the Associated Press by telephone.

Ali Mohammed Mansour, gave similar casualty figures, and said that he helped bury the dead in a mass grave.

ATTACK CRITICIZED


Mohammed Hazran, Abyan's deputy governor, said that 10 al-Qaeda suspects were killed in the attack, including Mohammed Saleh al-Kazemi, a Saudi who had resided in the country since fighting in Afghanistan.

He was imprisoned in Yemen for two years before being released in 2005.

A provincial security official said that "grave mistakes occurred in the operation due to failures of information, which led to a large number of civilian deaths."

Mansour, the resident, rejected claims that targeted site was a training camp, and said that community was only 100 meters away from a main road and two kilometres from an army base.

“If [al-Kazemi] was wanted, why didn't the authorities come and arrest him all this time?” he said.

Al-Qaeda fighters are thought to be living among tribes that have raised concerns with the central government, especially in the northeast of the country.

Yemen’s government has in recent months ordered a series of deadly raids against Houthi fighters in the north of the country, as well as a growing separatist campaign in the south of the country.

5.

Nation

U.S. HELPS YEMEN IN ATTACKS AGAINST SUSPECTED AL-QAEDA TARGETS

By Karen DeYoung

Washington Post

December 19, 2009

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/18/AR2009121804785.html


The United States provided intelligence and other assistance to Yemeni forces in attacks Thursday against suspected al-Qaeda targets, according to officials from both countries.

Yemen's government announced Thursday that its air and ground forces had attacked three sites, killing 34 al-Qaeda "operatives" and arresting 16.  News accounts said several civilians also had been killed.

U.S. officials refused to comment Friday on a report by ABC News that U.S. air-launched cruise missiles had been used in two of the attacks.  The network said that the launches had been approved by the White House and that President Obama had called President Ali Abdullah Saleh to congratulate him on Yemen's efforts against al-Qaeda.

"We are not going to get into any details at this point," one official said in response to questions about the use of U.S. aircraft or missiles in the attacks, adding that Yemen and the United States "cooperate closely on counterterrorism."

In the past week, Yemeni news media have carried reports of unmanned aircraft conducting apparent surveillance operations near the city of Marib in central Yemen.  Marib is also the location of a 2002 strike by a U.S. drone that killed the reputed head of al-Qaeda in Yemen, Abu Ali al-Harithi, who was suspected to have organized the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000.  Local media accounts suggested that a U.S. attack might again be imminent, because the 2002 strike also was preceded by sightings of drone aircraft over the city.

In recent years, al-Qaeda has expanded in Yemen, prompting U.S. concerns that the country could become an important haven for the organization.  Militants have attacked U.S. missionaries, foreign tourists and Yemeni security forces.  Last year, they targeted the U.S. Embassy with a car bomb and rockets.  The attack left 16 people dead, including six assailants.

--Staff writer Joby Warrick contributed to this report.


6.

Gulf

Yemen

DO NOT COOPERATE WITH AL QAIDA: YEMEN

By Nasser Arrabyee

** Statement issued for citizens as operatives escape crackdown **

Gulf News
December 19, 2009

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/yemen/do-not-cooperate-with-al-qaida-yemen-1.555163


SANA'A -- The Yemeni government has warned its citizens against cooperating with Al Qaida operatives who escaped a government crackdown on Thursday.

In an official statement, the government praised its security men as heroes in the operation against the Al Qaida group.  The crackdown was praised by both the U.S. and Egypt as both countries said they stood with Yemen in their fight against Al Qaida.

The leader of Al Qaida in Abyan, Mohammad Saleh Al Kazimi, was confirmed to be among those killed.

The second man in Al Qaida in Yemen, Qasim Al Raimi, reportedly survived the attack.  Ten of the Al Qaida members killed in Thursday's attacks were not Yemenis, according to the report.

Between 24-34 Al Qaida members were reportedly killed in the attack, but independent sources and eyewitnesses say that nearly 50 were killed and 60 injured including women and children.

7.

U.S. AIRSTRIKES HIT AL QAEDA IN YEMEN


CBS
December 18, 2009

http://cbs3.com/topstories/airstrike.al.qaeda.2.1379383.html


CBS News has confirmed that U.S. warplanes made airstrikes yesterday on suspected al Qaeda positions in Yemen.

Officials say the strikes were requested by the government of Yemen and were intended to head off terrorist attacks in that country.  The targets might have included the U.S. Embassy.  Yemeni officials say at least 34 militants were killed.

Part of al Qaeda's strategy has been to move the terrorist groups' Arab militant fighters out of the Afghanistan-Pakistan region to Yemen.

It was reported last week that the man in charge of that relocation was likely killed in a U.S. drone attack in northwest Pakistan.

Reports of the likely death of Saleh al-Somali, a Somali-born key al Qaeda operational planner, in a U.S. drone strike in northwestern Pakistan Tuesday prompted at least one knowledgeable Arab diplomat in the country to describe him as "a lynchpin in al Qaeda's well-considered new strategy."

According to the diplomat who spoke to CBS NEWS on condition of anonymity, al-Somali's responsibilities included plotting al Qaeda's attacks and plans beyond the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

"Since the summer of 2008, I believe he was involved with planning to shift some of al Qaeda's Arab fighters to Yemen" -- the conservative state in the Arabian peninsula alongside Saudi Arabia's southern border, where al Qaeda has pushed an increasingly violent insurgency in the past year.

The diplomat said that between one-quarter to one-third of al Qaeda's units in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region are now led by non-Arabs, in a transition from "100 percent of these units which were once led by Arabs."

He said militants from the central Asian former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan and Afghanistan were now either "holding permanent or temporary charge of these units," as some of al Qaeda's most hardened fighters head out of the region for Yemen, which he described as "their new frontier."

8.

World

YEMEN OPPOSITION SAYS GOVT ATTACKS KILLED CIVILIANS


Reuters
December 18, 2009

http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2009/12/18/world/international-us-yemen-raids-casualties.html


SANAA -- Yemen's opposition accused the government on Friday of killing dozens of civilians, including whole families, in raids a day earlier which the authorities said had killed about 30 al Qaeda militants.

Yemen said on Thursday that security forces and warplanes had foiled a planned series of suicide bombings by attacking targets including an al Qaeda training center in the southern province of Abyan and sites in Arhab district.

The troops killed 30 al Qaeda militants and arrested 17 in Abyan and in Arhab, northeast of the capital Sanaa, it said.

U.S. President Barack Obama called Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, saying the operation "confirms Yemen's resolve in confronting the danger of terrorism represented by al Qaeda for Yemen and the world," Yemen's state media said.

An opposition website quoted sources in Abyan as saying 18 children and 41 men and women were killed in the attack there, eight families losing four to seven members each.

"In a dangerous precedent, . . . the Sanaa regime committed a brutal massacre against our people," exiled southern leader Ali Salem al-Beidh said in a statement, calling for an investigation by the United Nations, and by Arab and Muslim countries.

A government official accused Beidh, who lives in Germany, of supporting al Qaeda in his statement and called for him to be handed over to Yemen, the state news agency Saba said.

As well as fighting al Qaeda militants, Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country, is battling separatist unrest in the south and a separate Shi'ite rebellion in the north.

Analysts say such conflicts, along with falling oil income, water shortages and a humanitarian crisis, add to instability in a region that includes oil superpower Saudi Arabia and one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

MP Ali Ashal from the Islamist opposition Islah party called for a parliamentary investigation into the raids.

"We are surprised by this operation, which shows the extreme foolishness of those who ordered it, because they ordered the shedding of innocent blood," Ashal told an opposition website.

Yemen joined the U.S. war on terror after the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. cities.

The conflict in northern Yemen drew in Saudi Arabia last month when the rebels briefly occupied some Saudi territory, prompting Riyadh to launch an offensive against them.  The rebels accuse Riyadh of backing Sanaa militarily since the war started.

Saudi Arabia fears instability in Yemen could turn into a security threat for the kingdom by allowing al Qaeda to gain a stronger foothold in its fragile neighbor.

More than 74,000 Africans have fled to Yemen this year, a 50 percent increase from 2008 despite the country's instability, according to figures issued on Friday by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva.

(Writing by Firouz Sedarat in Dubai, editing by Tim Pearce)


9.

News

World news

Middle East

Yemen

U.S. SPECIAL FORCES TRAIN YEMEN ARMY AS ARAB STATE BECOMES AL-QAEDA 'RESERVE BASE'

By Damien McElroy

Telegraph (London)
December 13, 2009

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/6803120/US-special-forces-train-Yemen-army-as-Arab-state-becomes-al-Qaeda-reserve-base.html


MANAMA, Bahrain -- U.S. special forces have been sent to Yemen to train its army amid fears the unstable Arab state is becoming a strategically important base for al-Qaeda.

American officials told the *Daily Telegraph* the country is becoming a "reserve" base for the terrorist network, which considers it a safe haven.

The deployment comes as Yemen's neighbors said they had arrested "dozens" of al-Qaeda fighters moving in and out of the country.  Oman, a moderate Arab state on Yemen's border, is to increase the number of naval patrols around the Arabian peninsula to try to intercept suspected terrorists on the move between bases in Yemen and South Asia.

Fearful that Yemen is in danger of becoming a failed state, America has now sent a small number of special forces teams to improve training of Yemen's army in reaction to the threat.

"Yemen is becoming a reserve base for al-Qaeda's activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan," said a U.S. military official.

"As Pakistan's campaign on the frontier affects the syndicates of terror on its territory and operations step up in Afghanistan, it is a place that offers relief to al-Qaeda operatives."

Ahmed Said Alkathiry, an Omani foreign ministry official, said:  "We have intercepted increasing numbers of people who come from places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Somalia that are moving their operations up through Yemen."

Mr. Alkathiry, who was speaking at a security summit in Bahrain, added:  "The issue of Yemen's security problems needs a lot of co-operation throughout the region.  If Yemen goes to the status of a failed state, the fall out will involve all the international players."

Yemen is the ancestral home of Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the local arm of the network, has provided many of the group's leaders.

One of al-Qaeda's worst attacks on America, the bombing of the USS Cole, took place in Aden in 2000, killing 17 American sailors.

Yemen has also served as a refuge for Saudi extremists targeted by Riyadh's harsh domestic campaign against terrorism, which was launched in 2004.  Prince Mohammmed bin Nayef, the head of its anti-terrorist campaign, was almost killed in August by a suicide bomber who had travelled from Yemen.

Sunni fundamentalists have gained a foothold within Yemen's tribes as popular anger has strengthened against the dictatorship of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power for 30 years.  The government is also in the grip of a war with Shia insurgents which has encroached on the border with Saudi Arabia and left Yemen incapable of concentrating on tackling the al-Qaeda threat.

"There is so much discontent with the president that the secessionist movement is the final straw," said a Western official.  "Fundamentalism is thriving in a population that is 50 per cent under 24 to the point that al-Qaeda is gaining a safe haven."

U.S. intelligence reports have said "dozens" of senior al-Qaeda members are established in Yemen.  Telephone intercepts and other surveillance detected close ties with groups based in South Asia.  Officials claimed that Saleh al-Somali, a Somali-born terrorist killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan last week, had orchestrated movement between the two war zones.

But other most wanted figures remain at large. Ibrahaim al-Rubaish, known as the "poet of Guantanamo," who was released from the U.S. prison camp in 2006 to undergo rehabilitation in Saudi Arabia, has fled to Yemen, as have other ex-prisoners.

Western diplomats have urged the leadership to embrace reforms so that international aid can be spent more effectively and have warned that time is running out.

"We've got two years to try to save the state and that means the president must end the war in the north, re-establish control over the tribal populations affected by extremism, and fend off the destablising spill over from Somalia," said a Western diplomat.

But officials in Yemen claim Iran, not al-Qaeda, poses the main threat to the country's security.

Ali Mohamed al-Anisi, the chairman of Yemen's national security agency, has blamed the Iran for fermenting the Shia rebellion.  He said:  "There are indeed signs, proof of Iranian interference."

Allegations that Iran supports the rebels that attacked Saudi Arabia remain unproven.  But Western diplomats claim it is probable that Iran is providing money or materiel to the group, as it has to Hezbollah in Lebanon.