Yemen tribe demands airstrike explanation by Friday

Yemen tribe demands airstrike explanation by Friday
# 28 May 2010 02:53 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. Kinsmen of a Yemeni mediator killed in an errant airstrike targeting al Qaeda threatened to call off their truce with the government and resume hostilities unless a probe into the strike produces results by Friday, APA reports quoting website.
Tribesmen in Yemen, which is a focus of Western security concerns, blew up an oil pipeline and clashed with security forces on Tuesday after a midnight airstrike killed Jaber al-Shabwani and four others in a convoy in Maarib province.
An opposition-aligned Yemeni website said the strike was carried out by a drone, a weapon Yemen is not believed to have. U.S. forces have used drones in Yemen in the past, but a U.S. diplomat declined to say if Washington was involved.
Members of al-Shabwani’s tribe agreed to a truce with the government on condition that it investigate how he was killed and bring those responsible to trial.
"We rejected tribal arbitration in favor of the formation of an inquiry committee to investigate the incident and expose those involved," al-Shabwani’s father Ali said on Thursday.
In a statement on Thursday, the tribe said "it is expected that the government committee complete its investigation by tomorrow."
It warned that "if (the state) does not present those responsible, it can expect a harsh response."
Al-Shabwani, deputy provincial governor of Maarib, had been en route to meet al Qaeda members to seek their surrender, local officials said.
U.S. officials said on Tuesday that the U.S. military and spy agencies have stepped up intelligence gathering using surveillance aircraft, satellites, and signals intercepts to track al Qaeda targets in and around their base in Yemen.
Yemen, next door to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, jumped to the forefront of Western security concerns after the Yemen-based regional arm of al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the botched bombing of a U.S. plane on a domestic flight on December 25.
A statement from a top Yemeni security body expressed sorrow over al-Shabwani’s death, calling him a martyr, but did not say who might have carried out the strike or what type of aircraft was used.
U.S. officials asked about the strike said that Washington plays a supporting role by helping Yemeni forces track and pinpoint targets. One official said there was an increasingly "fine line" between support and taking the lead.
The Pentagon announced a $155.3 million security package earlier this year, with $34.5 million earmarked to expand the capabilities of Yemen’s Special Operations Forces to conduct counterterrorism operations.
Analysts say the strike could heighten anti-U.S. sentiment and broaden al Qaeda’s appeal among powerful Yemeni tribes that threaten efforts to stabilize the country, also situated next to busy international shipping lanes.