US officials fear they were 'played' in Yemen strike
WASHINGTON - US officials suspect that Yemen fed them false intelligence for a 2010 strike against Al-Qaeda suspects that killed a local leader locked in a dispute with the president's family, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
The disclosure of such an incident would complicate relations between the two allies at a time when Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is seeking to visit the United States amid months of popular protests demanding his ouster.
The May 25, 2010 US missile strike, launched on intelligence supplied by the Yemeni government, killed Jabir Shabwani, 31, deputy governor of the central Mareb province, whose long-standing relations with Saleh's family had soured.
"We think we got played," the Journal quoted an official as saying, adding that other officials do not believe there was a Yemeni plan to kill Shabwani.
Saleh has been a key ally in the covert US war on Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a group increasingly seen as a threat to the United States comparable to the global network's core leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Saleh has also faced months of massive protests demanding the end of his 33-year reign accompanied by growing unrest that further threatens stability in the impoverished and largely tribal country.
Earlier this month Saleh requested permission to visit the United States, setting up a dilemma for US President Barack Obama, who has relied on the Yemeni leader as an anti-Qaeda ally but has also voiced support for the pro-democracy revolts sweeping the Arab world.
The Journal said some US officials doubt the military was intentionally misled in the 2010 strike but said it raised troubling questions about the reliance on Yemeni security forces for intelligence.
The Journal quoted Yemeni officials as denying that they had any knowledge that Shabwani was at the site of the air strike.