US using secret airbase in Saudi Arabia to carry out drone strikes against al-Qa'ida militants in Yemen

First drone strike launched from the base believed to have been the one that killed Anwar al-Awlaki

The CIA is using a secret airbase in Saudi Arabia to carry out drone strikes against al-Qa'ida militants in Yemen, US media has revealed.

The first drone strike launched from the base is believed to have been the one that killed US-born militant Anwar al-Awlaki in September 2011.

The New York Times said the CIA now uses the base to hunt “high value targets” in Yemen, such as the leaders of Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula - a group the Obama administration believe poses a direct threat to the United States.

The BBC reported that US media has known about the airbase’s existence since the strike that killed al-Awlaki, but had chosen not to reveal it after senior government officials raised concerns that disclosure could undermine its mission and potentially damage counter-terrorism relations with Saudi Arabia.

The New York Times did not reveal the exact location of the airbase, but said its construction was ordered in December 2009 after a US-launched cruise missile strike in Yemen ended in disaster, with dozens of civilians killed.

The newspaper also reported that, under a special agreement with the Yemeni government, the US does not need to get permission each time it launches a drone strike.

Speaking with the BBC Kristian Coates-Ulrichsen, an expert on Gulf politics at the London School of Economics, said the agreement with the Saudi’s would almost certainly have come about in reaction to their own insecurities about Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula.

He said: “The Saudis see AQAP as a very real threat to their domestic security...They are worried about attacks on their energy infrastructure and on the royal family, so it fits their strategy to allow drone attacks.”

Saudi Arabia has previously denied cooperating with the US to target militants in Yemen and any operation by US military or intelligence officials inside the country will be politically and religiously sensitive.

Al-Qa'ida and other Islamic militant groups have previously used Saudi Arabia’s close relationship with US to stir up anger against its royal family.

Saudi Arabia is home to many of Islam’s holiest sites and it is believed that presence of western forces in the country was Osama bin Laden’s main justification for violence against the US and its allies.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?