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
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

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Broker / Purchaser

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Call Centre Manager - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative online car purc...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'