Obama aide in Yemen amid anti-Qaeda push |
Gulf Times - 14 May, 2012
A senior aide to US President Barack Obama held talks in Sanaa yesterday with Yemen’s new leader, as efforts by the Yemeni army backed by American drones to crush an Al Qaeda militancy intensified.
Discussions between John Brennan, Obama’s top counter-terrorism aide, and President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi revolved around “combating terrorism” and attempts by Yemen’s army to crush the local branch of Al Qaeda, state news agency Saba reported.
The talks came as Yemeni forces yesterday pressed a multi-pronged assault launched the previous day aimed at recapturing the Al Qaeda-held southern city of Zinjibar.
The battles against the militants were being carried out with “US logistical support”, a Yemeni military official said a day after US drones killed 12 suspected militants in two separate attacks east of the capital Sanaa.
In a message to Obama, Hadi told Brennan that “hunting terrorists is an irreversible decision and they will be pursued until these regions are cleansed of their presence.”
According to the Yemeni military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, 12 soldiers have been killed since the all-out operation against Al Qaeda was launched around Zinjibar, capital of Abyan province, on Saturday.
“The fighting continues and the army is advancing towards Zinjibar,” the official said, adding that government forces reached the Shaddad Fort, around 3km east of Zinjibar, and Zinjibar Bridge, just 1km south of the city.
Another military official said air raids yesterday targeted Zinjibar and the neighbouring town of Jaar, while artillery pounded the city.
The “wide offensive” began from three sides and was supported by the air force and the navy, a military official had said on Saturday, adding that Defence Minister Mohamed Nasser Ahmed was overseeing the operation.
Six fighters of the Al Qaeda-linked Ansar Al Shariah (Partisans of Shariah), were killed in the attack on Zinjibar, said a tribal source in Jaar, to where the gunmen evacuate their casualties.
Air strikes on Saturday also hit Jaar, killing three Al Qaeda gunmen and a civilian, and wounding three civilians, according to tribal sources.
After the air raids, military units attacked Jaar from the west, reaching the outskirts of the town.
The militants took advantage of a central government weakened by an Arab Spring-inspired uprising to overrun Zinjibar in May last year. They also control Jaar and other parts of the province.