Yemen has asked for U.S. drones to be used “in some cases” to target al-Qaeda leaders in the country, its foreign minister told AFP on Wednesday.
“Drones were used upon Yemen’s request in some cases against fleeing al-Qaeda leaders,” Abu Bakr al-Kurbi told AFP on the sidelines of a counter-piracy conference in Dubai, in a first official Yemeni confirmation.
Yemeni troops have this month recaptured a string of towns which al-Qaeda militants overran last year across the province of Abyan.
In an interview with ABC television’s “This Week,” U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta defended in May the use of drones as “the most precise weapons we have” in the campaign against the militant group.
His comments were the first time the U.S. formally acknowledged the use of unmanned drones against al-Qaeda suspects in Yemen, where such reports had not been confirmed.