FEATURE-Yemeni debate over drones emerges after Saleh's fall

Wed Oct 17, 2012 1:12pm GMT

* Post-Saleh interim leader says approves each U.S. drone strike

* Public anger becomes more vocal over civilian deaths

* Hadi risks losing domestic support for transition

By Andrew Hammond

SANAA, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Yemen's interim president has won U.S. praise for cooperating in a war on al Qaeda, but his recent public support for drone strikes that sometimes kill civilians could undermine his domestic popularity and stir sympathy for militants.

Yemen, an Arabian Peninsula country where al Qaeda militants exploited a security vacuum during last year's rising against Ali Abdullah Saleh, has witnessed an escalated campaign of U.S. missile strikes in recent months, often using the pilotless aircraft known as drones.

In a departure from Saleh's policies, Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi spoke openly in favour of the drone strikes during a trip to the United States last month. Praised by the U.S. ambassador in Sanaa as being more effective against al Qaeda than his predecessor, Hadi was quoted as saying that he personally approved every attack.

The comments came after a September strike that killed 12 civilians in Radaa, a small Yemeni town south of Sanaa, and the storming of the U.S. Embassy in the capital by protesters angry over an anti-Islam film made in California.   Continued...

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