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US steps up anti-terror campaign in Yemen: report

Yemen's Shiite rebel leader could be dead: defence ministry
Sanaa (AFP) Dec 27, 2009 - The leader of Yemen's Zaidi Shiite rebels Abdul Malek al-Huthi may have been killed following an air raid last week and buried, a website linked to the defence ministry reported on Sunday. "There are increasing reports of the death of the terrorist Abdul Malek al-Huthi, who suffered serious injuries in an (air) raid," in the northern mountainous province of Saada, according to the website "Information indicates that he was buried in Jebel Talan overlooking the Malahidh near the house of one of the relatives of the Huthi family, Ahmed al-Hadawi," it said. It was not possible to confirm the report with the rebels, as their spokesmen could not be reached on Sunday.

The defence ministry said on December 20 that Huthi had been seriously injured in an air strike. However, a man named Ali, who claimed to be a spokesman for the rebels, described the claim as "baseless." The Yemeni government has been engaged in sporadic fighting with the rebels, also known as Huthis after their leader, since 2004. The latest round broke out on August 11, when government forces launched "Operation Scorched Earth" -- an all-out offensive to stamp out the uprising among the Zaidi Shiite community, a minority in mainly Sunni Yemen but the majority group in the northern mountains. Saudi Arabia joined the fray on 4 November, carrying out strikes on Huthi positions a day after it accused Yemen rebels of killing a Saudi border guard and occupying two villages in Saudi territory.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Dec 27, 2009
The United States has quietly opened a third, largely covert front against the Al-Qaeda terror network in Yemen, The New York Times reported late Sunday.

Citing an unnamed former top CIA official, the newspaper said that a year ago the Central Intelligence Agency sent many field operatives with counterterrorism experience to the country.

At the same time, some of the most secretive special operations commandos have begun training Yemeni security forces in counterterrorism tactics, the report said.

The Pentagon will be spending more than 70 million dollars over the next 18 months, and using teams of special forces, to train and equip Yemeni military, Interior Ministry and coast guard forces, more than doubling previous military aid levels, the paper noted.

Yemen became the focus of US attention after a Nigerian man, who tried to blow up a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day, confessed to training with an Al-Qaeda bombmaker in Yemen, security officials told the US media.

The country has long been a refuge for jihadists, in part because Yemen's government welcomed returning Islamist fighters who had fought in Afghanistan during the 1980s, the report pointed out.

But Al-Qaeda militants have made much more focused efforts to build a base in Yemen in recent years, drawing recruits from throughout the region and mounting more frequent attacks on foreign embassies and other targets, according to The Times.

The White House is seeking to nurture enduring ties with the government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and prod him to combat the local Al-Qaeda affiliate, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the paper said.

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