U.S. helped Yemen with hardware, intelligence: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States gave military hardware, intelligence and other support to Yemeni forces who raided suspected al Qaeda hide-outs this week, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

The newspaper cited officials familiar with the operations as saying the U.S. help, approved by President Barack Obama, had been given at the request of the Yemeni government.

The support was intended to help Yemen prevent al Qaeda from mounting attacks on American and other foreign targets inside its borders, the Times reported.

“Yemen should be commended for actions against al Qaeda,” Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, told the newspaper.

Yemeni officials said their security forces and warplanes had killed around 30 militants in the country’s largest attack on the group in some years. One Yemeni source said the operations had foiled a planned series of suicide bombings.

The Times story did not provide details of the U.S. support, but cited ABC News as saying it included missiles.

The reluctance of administration officials to comment on whether U.S. forces had launched missiles into Yemen appeared to reflect a desire to make clear the Yemeni government was in the lead in operations within its borders, the newspaper said.

U.S. officials told the Times that some of the strikes against suspected terrorist camps in Yemen were carried out solely by local forces.

American officials said last summer that they were seeing the first evidence that dozens of al Qaeda fighters, and a small handful of the group’s leaders, were moving to Somalia and Yemen from Pakistan.

Saudi and Yemeni militants said earlier this year that they were uniting under the name Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, but using Yemen as their base.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, fears instability in Yemen could turn into a security threat for the kingdom by allowing al Qaeda to gain a stronger foothold in its fragile neighbor.