Yemen leader asks US for drone technology

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Associated Press

Posted on August 23, 2013 at 11:06 AM

Updated Friday, Aug 23 at 12:30 PM

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A suicide car bomb killed two soldiers Friday at a checkpoint in Yemen's south, officials say, as the country's leader makes public his request to the U.S. for drone technology to boost local efforts against militants.

The security official said six soldiers were also wounded in the attack, with the bomber blowing up his explosives-rigged car after he was stopped at a checkpoint at the entrance to the city of Shibam, in Hadramawt province. The official spoke on condition of anonymity following official guidelines.

The attack had all the hallmarks of al-Qaida's Yemeni branch, but there was no immediate claim of responsibility. Washington considers the branch one of the world's most dangerous terrorist groups.

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi told police cadets on Thursday that the U.S. drones have been carrying out attacks in Yemen in accordance with an agreement to combat terrorism signed by the United States and former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Cooperation (with the U.S.) in the field of combating terrorism is not a secret as we take part in the operation room in Djibouti and we have officers in Bahrain's operation room with other world countries," he said.

The president said the U.S. drone attacks "have widely curtailed al-Qaida activities."

Hadi said he asked Washington during his trip there earlier this month to provide his country with drones.

"Yemenis are smart. They will learn fast," he said, in a speech aired on state TV.

There has been a spike since late July in drone strikes in the country targeting al-Qaida.

While the U.S. acknowledges its drone program in Yemen, it does not usually talk about individual strikes. The program is run by the Pentagon's Joint Special Operations Command and the CIA, with the military flying its drones out of Djibouti, and the CIA out of a base in Saudi Arabia.

Two drone attacks killed six suspected militants of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, as the Yemeni branch is known, in Hadramawt earlier this month.

Hadi also said news about civilians killed in drone attacks were exaggerated, while referring to an air strike in 2009 in Abyan province that killed many civilians. Hadi said it was caused by a cruise missile and not a drone but did not elaborate.

He said the recent airstrikes and military operations killed at least 40 terrorists from al-Qaida, including several senior members. He said Yemeni security have also foiled car bomb attacks including ones involving two cars each laden with seven tons of explosives.

There has been a spike since late July in drone strikes in the country targeting al-Qaida.

Accelerated use of drone strikes in Yemen under President Barack Obama and a U.S.-backed offensive last year drove militants from territory they had seized a year earlier, during Yemen's political turmoil amid the Arab Spring.

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