WASHINGTON, Dec 30, 2009 (AFP) - The United States and Yemen are reviewing targets in Yemen for a potential reprisal strike after the failed Christmas Day attack on a US jet that Al-Qaeda in Yemen claimed responsibility for, CNN reported Wednesday.
A passenger walks toward a security checkpoint at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, just outside Washington, DC, on December 29, 2009. (AFP photo)
CNN television cited two senior US officials who "stressed the effort is aimed at being ready with options for the White House if President (Barack) Obama orders a retaliatory strike. The effort is to see whether targets can be specifically linked to the airliner incident and its planning."
"US special operations forces and intelligence agencies, and their Yemeni counterparts, are working to identify potential Al-Qaeda targets in Yemen," the report cited one US source as saying.
"Yemen has not yet consented to the type of special forces helicopter-borne air assault that would put US commandos on the ground with the mission of capturing suspects for further interrogation. That is also a capability the US would like the Yemenis to eventually develop," the report added, citing another official.
US intelligence agencies believe Yemen is home to several training camps where one or two dozen fighters at a time are trained. One of the camps was among the targets in air strikes earlier this month, the report noted.
Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi has said several hundred Al-Qaeda militants may be operating in Yemen and could be planning attacks like the alleged attempt to blow up the US-bound passenger jet.
Asked to specify the number of Al-Qaeda operatives, he told the BBC: "I can't give you really an exact figure. Maybe hundreds of them, 200, 300. I don't have a real figure."
The comments come after Yemen said the 23-year-old Nigerian accused of trying to blow up the US-bound passenger jet on Christmas Day was in the Middle Eastern country until a few weeks ago.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who allegedly tried to use a syringe to set off a high explosive called PETN sewn into his underwear, reportedly confessed to being trained for his mission by an Al-Qaeda bomb maker in Yemen.
Al-Qirbi called for countries to improve their intelligence sharing with Yemen, so it could be warned about the movement of suspects.