Yemen’s President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi held talks with FBI Director Robert Mueller in Sanaa Tuesday on the growing threat from Al-Qaeda in the country’s embattled south, the state news agency reported.
They discussed “efforts in the fight against terrorism, and against Al-Qaeda in particular,” according to SABA, which added that their talks focused on the terror network’s expansion in Yemen’s southern Abyan province.
The report said the two sides also discussed ways “to strengthen joint efforts to defeat the terrorist group… whose goal is to undermine security and stability” in Yemen.
The United States has long supported Sanaa in its fight against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the name given to the extremist group’s Yemen branch, which Washington considers the most deadly and active in the global network.
The Washington Post said on Thursday that the CIA is seeking permission to launch more drone strikes in Yemen, adding that there have been at least eight US raids in Yemen in the past four months.
The United States has never formally acknowledged the use of drones against Al-Qaeda in Yemen, and the Yemeni government continues to deny that such air strikes take place.
Tuesday’s meeting came as Yemeni troops, backed by armed civilians, advanced on Abyan’s capital Zinjibar, under Al-Qaeda control since last May.
Al-Qaeda and its local affiliates, the self-proclaimed Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law), have expanded their control of Yemen’s mostly lawless southern and eastern provinces, taking advantage of a weakened central government in Sanaa and months of political upheaval.
President Hadi, who took office after veteran leader Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced from power in February, has pledged to hunt down Al-Qaeda.
Fierce battles have raged in recent weeks in Abyan and nearby Shabwa and Bayda provinces as troops and militants fight for control of the region.
[Yemen's President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi photo via AFP / T.J. Kirkpatrick]