Yemen and Updates
On orders from President Barack Obama, the U.S. military launched cruise missiles against two suspected al-Qaeda sites in Yemen, administration officials told ABC News in a report broadcast on ABC World News with Charles Gibson.
American officials said the missile strikes were intended to disrupt a growing threat from the al Qaeda branch in Yemen, which claims to coordinate terror attacks against neighboring Saudi Arabia. The al Qaeda presence in Yemen has been steadily growing in the last two years. According to Richard Barrett, coordinator of the UN's Taliban al=Qaeda Sanctions Monitoring Committee, "Al Qaeda generally has been pushed into these ungoverned areas, whether it is the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area [or Yemen]," "I think many of the key people have moved to Yemen."
The U.S. embassy was attacked by suspected al Qaeda gunmen last year.
December 18, 2009 "ABC News" --
One of the targeted sites was a suspected al Qaeda training camp north of the capitol, Sanaa, and the second target was a location where officials said "an imminent attack against a U.S. asset was being planned."
The Yemen attacks by the U.S. military represent a major escalation of the Obama administration's campaign against al Qaeda.
In his speech about added troops for Afghanistan earlier this month, President Obama made a brief reference to Yemen, saying, "Where al Qaeda and its allies attempt to establish a foothold -- whether in Somalia or Yemen or elsewhere -- they must be confronted by growing pressure and strong partnerships."
Until tonight, American officials had hedged about any U.S. role in the strikes against Yemen and news reports from Yemen attributed the attacks to the Yemen Air Force.
President Obama placed a call after the strikes to "congratulate" the President of Yemen, Ali Abdallah Salih, on his efforts against al Qaeda, according to White House officials.
A Yemeni official at the country's embassy in Washington insisted to ABC News Friday that the Thursday attacks were "planned and executed" by the Yemen government and police.
While most of the world focuses its attention on Afghanistan, its important to keep one's eye on Yemen, and who benefits most from US involvement in these strikes.