SANAA, Yemen, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Kurbi confirmed the United States was militarily involved in strikes against al-Qaida in his country, but no longer.
In an interview Thursday with the al-Hayat newspaper, al-Kurbi said the U.S. airstrikes were suspended in December because his government viewed them as counterproductive.
"Fighting al-Qaida is the responsibility of security and anti-terrorism forces in Yemen," Kurbi said.
He said that while his country's security forces are hunting for the U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, whose name appears on a U.S. most wanted list, even if he is captured, they will not hand him over to American officials.
"Awlaki is in an area where we are conducting operations against al-Qaida, and he is among those targeted for arrest in these operations," he said.
"The U.S. has already requested the extradition of other Yemenis holding U.S. citizenship, but we refused because the Yemeni Constitution prohibits the extradition of a Yemeni citizen to a third country. This applies to Awlaki," he told the newspaper.
The report said it is the first time a Yemeni government official has publicly acknowledged the United States was involved in hunting down al-Qaida operatives in the country.
The United States operates a major counter-terrorism base in Djibouti just across the strategic Bab al-Mandab strait from Yemen, the site said.
Al-Awlaki, 39, rose to prominence last year after he was linked a U.S. army major who shot dead 13 people in Fort Hood, Texas, and to a Nigerian student accused of trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight on Dec. 25, the site said.