February 12, 2015 / 10:51 PM / 3 years ago

Embassy closure hurts counterterrorism in Yemen - U.S. officials

Police troopers secure the entrance of the U.S. embassy in Sanaa February 11, 2015.Khaled Abdullah

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The closure of the U.S. Embassy in Yemen has further degraded America's ability to conduct counterterrorism operations in the country, which is teetering on the brink of civil war, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

The officials acknowledged last month that such operations, including the use of armed drones against al Qaeda targets, were under strain because U.S. agencies were having difficulty acquiring the on-the-ground intelligence needed to run them.

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The officials acknowledged the evacuation of the embassy further hampered counterterrorism operations.

The officials said, however, that some counterterrorism personnel remained in Yemen and were still able to carry out operations, despite chaos in the country following the takeover of the capital Sanaa by Houthi militants.

The United States has for years mounted a campaign against Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), one of al Qaeda's most deadly and innovative affiliates.

U.S. government sources said two drone strikes had been carried out against suspected AQAP targets since the Houthis ousted the president and took over government buildings last month, including offices housing security and spy agencies.

Officials would not discuss specifics of the continuing U.S. presence in Yemen. The United States has had advisers at a Yemeni air base in the south, and has flown drone strikes into Yemen from a base across the eastern border in Saudi Arabia.

Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by David Storey and Andre Grenon

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