The United States has carried out airstrikes in Yemen, Yemen’s foreign minister told a pan-Arab newspaper in an interview published Thursday, marking that government’s first official confirmation of a U.S. military role in its fight against terrorism.
Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi told the Saudi-owned Al-Hayat newspaper that the air strikes ended in December because the “Yemeni government ascertained they weren’t achieving results.”
Al-Qirbi also told the newspaper that combating al Qaeda “is the responsibility of the security and counterterrorism forces in Yemen.”
Al-Qirbi further said that Yemen would not extradite U.S.-born radical Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki to the United States if he were captured. “The U.S. has requested the extradition of other Yemeni citizens, but we refused to turn them over because our constitution prohibits the extradition of Yemeni citizen to another country — and this would apply to al-Awlaki,” he said.
Al-Qirbi added that al-Awlaki “is in an area where we are conducting operations against al Qaeda, and he is one of the people targeted for capture in those operations.”
Last week, Yemen’s deputy prime minister for defense and security, Rashad al-Alimi, told CNN that the United States and Britain had provided aid to Yemen, but asserted there was no U.S. military presence in Yemen.
The U.S. Defense Department would not confirm the strikes.
“We applaud the efforts of Yemen and other countries in the region for addressing the terror threat within their borders,” said Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan. “DoD provides a broad range of support to Yemen to include training and equipment, but the nature of operations there are such that we are not always able to talk about them in detail.”