The US’ Central Intelligence Agency has been secretly using a Saudi airbase to conduct its controversial drone assassination campaign in neighboring Yemen, according to reports.
Guardian daily , and New York Times reported on Wednesday that these drone attacks killed the US-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and his son in September 2011 and Said al-Shehri, a senior commander from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), who died from his injuries last month.
They added that the drone attacks were launched from the unnamed base.
The existence of the base has been reported before, but its exact location has been withheld by various news outlets at the request of the Obama administration.
The base was first used in 2011, the Times reported, to launch the drone strike that killed Awlaki.
Any operation by US military or intelligence officials inside Saudi Arabia is politically and religiously sensitive. AQAP and other groups have used the kingdom’s close relationship with the US to recruit new members, and to stir internal dissent against the Saudi government.
Disclosure of the base’s location comes at a time of heightened scrutiny of US drone operations in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere.
Meanwhile, John Brennan, the president’s top counterterrorism adviser and a prominent architect of the drone program, will appear before Congress on Thursday for confirmation hearings. Obama has nominated Brennan to head the Central Intelligence Agency.
He will undoubtedly face questions about a leaked Justice Department memo, first reported by NBC News, which authorises the president to kill American citizens who are “senior leaders” of militant groups, even if they have not been directly involved in attacks against the US.