Reports: Yemeni authorities approved U.S. missile strike on al-Qaeda activists
The US missile strike that killed a top al-Qaeda leader in Yemen was implemented with the approval of the local government and under broad authority given by the White House, two leading US newspapers reported Wednesday.
An administration official told The Washington Post "the CIA-controlled Predator was being operated under a presidential finding that authorized covert actions by the agency against Osama bin Laden's group, and although civilians were killed in the attack it was considered a military action and not an assassination."
The dead included Ali Qaed Sunian al-Harithi, described as a top al-Qaeda leader and planner of the October 12, 2000 suicide attack on the destroyer USS Cole in Aden. Yemeni officials privately told reporters that their intelligence agents were watching and communicating to U.S. intelligence the movements of al-Harithi.
In the wake of the attack, however, a statement by Salih was read over Yemen national television, asking those who had joined bin Laden's network to come forward in order to avoid what happened to al-Harithi. "We call on everyone from among our countrymen who have been entangled in membership of the al Qaeda organization to repent...and renounce all means of violence," Salih's statement said.
On its part, The New York Times, quoting senior administration officials, said US President George W. Bush granted the CIA broad authority over the past year to hunt down al-Qaeda members anywhere in the world.
The officials said Bush did not authorize the specific decision to fire the missile that killed al-Harithi, since he had delegated control of such operations to his military and intelligence teams. The decision to carry out the attack in Yemen, the officials told the Times, was made by "very senior officials" below the level of the president who had been closely monitoring the surveillance of al-Harithi. (Albawaba.com)
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