US boosts covert war in Yemen

Washington: Exploiting a growing power vacuum in Yemen, US has intensified a covert war in the country to strike at militant suspects with armed drones and fighter jets.

The accelerated campaign has been taking place over the past few weeks amid a violent conflict in the country that has left the government in Sanaa, a US ally, struggling to cling to power, `New York Times` reported quoting American officials.

The stepped up attacks are aimed at keeping terrorists in the south, who are linked to Al Qaeda from snatching power in the vacuum created by shifting of Yemen`s entire top leadership including President Ali Abdullah Saleh to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment after an attack on its palace.

The US strikes have been resumed after almost a year long pause, which was halted as poor intelligence led to bungling of missions and killing of some pro-American forces, which undercut the covert campaign.

The paper said that on Friday American jet fighters had killed Ali al-Harithi, a midlevel Al Qaeda operative and several other militant suspects in a strike in south Yemen.

Weeks earlier American drones fired missiles aimed at Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical American born cleric who the US government has tried to kill for more than a year. Awlaki survived.

The American campaign in Yemen, NYT said is led by the Pentagon`s joint special operations command and is closely co-ordinated with CIA. It said that teams of US military and intelligence operatives had set up a command post in Sanaa, to plot future strikes. .