Obama aide in Yemen in anti-al Qaeda drive

Reuters News
Posted: May 14, 2012 4:18 PM
Obama aide in Yemen in anti-al Qaeda drive

SANAA (Reuters) - A senior aide to Barack Obama flew into Yemen on Sunday to meet the leader of a country battling with al Qaeda insurgents that Washington believes has also targeted the United States, a Yemeni official said.

The visit of John Brennan, the U.S. president's counter-terrorism adviser, comes as Yemen is on a new offensive against Islamist rebels and after Washington said it had foiled an airliner bomb plot linked to al Qaeda's Yemen-based affiliate.

Washington has stepped up its drone attacks in Yemen since President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi took office in February, and the Pentagon said this week it had recently resumed sending military trainers into the Gulf Arab country.

Brennan will meet with Hadi "to reiterate holistic U.S. support to Yemen not only in the field of counter-terrorism but also by providing assistance to help Yemen overcome its many other economic and security challenges," Mohammed al-Basha, a Washington-based Yemeni government spokesman, told Reuters.

Brennan's visit also comes amid increasing attacks and kidnapping attempts on officials and foreign diplomats as the impoverished state tries to wrest back control of its restive south from Islamist rebels.

Unidentified assailants hurled a hand grenade at the house of Information Minister Ali al-Amrani on Saturday. A bystander was wounded in the foot during a shoot-out as the men escaped, Abdel-Basset al-Qaedi, a member of Amrani's staff, said.

In January, gunmen opened fire on the information minister's car in an apparent assassination attempt, and on Saturday Bulgaria's ambassador escaped an apparent kidnap attempt in the capital Sanaa.

On Sunday, at least 10 militants were killed in clashes with the Yemeni army near the southern city of Zinjibar. Six militants were killed on Saturday night in an air strike in Zinjibar, the Defence Ministry said in an online statement.

Two apparent U.S. drone attacks killed at least 10 suspected al Qaeda-linked militants on Saturday, officials said.

Washington backed a power transfer plan that made Hadi the successor to President Ali Abdullah Saleh after a year of mass protests which coincided with a split in the army that threatened to erupt into civil war.

The United States and Saudi Arabia, both targets of failed attacks by Yemen's al Qaeda branch, want Hadi to unite the army and roll back gains made by Islamists who seized southern towns during the political turmoil.

(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari and Tom Finn in Sanaa and Mohammed Mukhashaf in Aden; Writing by Rania El Gamal and Joseph Logan; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)