A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and backed by the United States has cut secret deals with al-Qaeda militants, an investigation by The Associated Press has found.
The Saudi-led coalition paid some Al-Qaeda militants to leave key cities and towns they had seized across Yemen and forced others to retreat with weapons, equipment and wads of looted cash, the investigation said, noting that hundreds more were recruited to join the coalition itself, the New York Times reported on Monday, citing an investigation by the AP.
“Again and again over the past two years, the coalition has claimed to win decisive victories that drove al-Qaeda militants from their strongholds and shattered their ability to attack the West. What the victors didn’t disclose: many of those conquests came without firing a shot,” the AP said.
The compromises and alliances have allowed al-Qaeda militants to survive to fight another day — and risk strengthening the most dangerous branch of the terror network, according to the investigation.
The AP also quoted key participants in the pacts as saying that the US was aware of the arrangements and held off on any drone strikes as the al-Qaeda militants retreated in plain sight.
The AP’s findings are based on reporting in Yemen and interviews with two dozen officials, including Yemeni security officers, militia commanders, tribal mediators and four members of al-Qaeda’s branch.
All but a few of those sources spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals. Emirati-backed factions, like most armed groups in Yemen, have been accused of abducting or killing their critics, the AP said.