WASHINGTON — The Yemen-based branch of Al-Qaeda could be close to launching an attack, according to US spy agencies which said the group may be seeking to capitalize on unrest roiling the Middle Eastern country, The Washington Post said Saturday.
Citing unnamed US officials, the newspaper said agencies have gathered only "fragmentary information" on a possible plot from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and have yet to assemble detailed intelligence that would prompt a public warning or take to specific action to counter the threat.
"We're always at a very high level of alert and have been for some time with AQAP," an official told the Post. The intelligence however points to "more than that they are bent on attacking the West and continuing to plot," implying an operation beyond the planning phase, according to the official.
The rising threat comes as Yemen's embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh hangs on to power amid months of street protests -- which have disrupted his counterterrorism operations -- and high-profile defections in the ranks of top military and tribal leaders just in the past two weeks.
Saleh, in power for more than 30 years, has been a key US ally in its fight against the active Al-Qaeda branch operating out of his country. The group last year launched a failed plot to dispatch parcel bombs on US-bound cargo planes.
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told the Post in response to the recent intelligence the United States continues "to take very seriously the threat posed by AQAP... They are the most active (Al-Qaeda) franchise, and we are working diligently with our partners to disrupt their activities."
Alongside drone attacks targeting AQAP, the United States over the last 18 months has also dispatched "dozens" of CIA operatives and even Special Operations military troops to operate alongside Yemeni forces to counter and disrupt the group's operations, the Post said.
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