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Saudi jets bolster U.S. drone attacks on Yemen: report

Jet fighters of the Saudi Royal air force performs during the graduation ceremony of the 83rd batch of King Faisal Air Academy (KFAA) students that was attended by Saudi Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz (not pictured) held at the Riyadh military airport, on January 1, 2013, in Riyadh. AFP PHOTO/FAYEZ NURELDINE

LONDON: Saudi Arabia has provided fighter jets to assist the United States with its drone strikes against Al-Qaeda targets in Yemen, the London Times reported on Friday.

US drones are backing Yemeni forces combating militants of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The group's Yemen branch is considered by Washington to be the most active and deadliest franchise of the global jihadist network.

The Times cited a US intelligence source as saying that "some of the so-called drone missions are actually Saudi Air Force missions".

US drone attacks in Yemen nearly tripled in 2012 compared to 2011, according to the Washington-based think tank New America Foundation, and for the first time totalled more than in Pakistan last year.

A new US drone strike on Thursday killed three Al-Qaeda suspects in the town of Rada in Yemen's central Al-Bayda province, the site of similar recent attacks, tribal sources there said.

AQAP took advantage of the weakness of Yemen's central government during an uprising in 2011 against now ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, seizing large swathes of territory across the south.

But after a month-long offensive launched in May last year by Yemeni troops, most militants fled to the more lawless desert regions of the east.

 

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