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Houthi official: CIA asked Yemen's Saleh to release Al-Qaeda member

President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sana, Yemen on 10 March 2011 [Jonathan Saruk/Getty Images]
Former late President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sana, Yemen on 10 March 2011 [Jonathan Saruk/Getty Images]

An alleged leaked telephone conversation between the CIA's former director George Tenet and former late Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh released on Tuesday by the Houthi-affiliated Al-Masirah channel purportedly contains audio of Tenet requesting Saleh release an Al-Qaeda member.

In the conversation, Tenet asks for the release of "someone important to me personally, within two days" who was arrested in connection to Al-Qaeda's role in the attack against a US naval destroyer, the USS Cole in 2000. However, when asked by Saleh for a name, Tenet is said to have responded that it was too risky to reveal names over the phone, adding that they both knew who this individual was.

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According to Abdul Qader Al-Shami, the deputy head of Yemen's Houthi-aligned Security and Intelligence Services, the Al-Qaeda member in question was the US-born cleric-turned Al-Qaeda propagandist and leader Anwar Al-Awlaki who was killed in a controversial US drone strike in 2011 approved by former President Barack Obama. Al-Awlaki's 16-year old son, also a US citizen, was killed in a separate CIA drone strike two weeks later along with his cousin and several other civilians. In 2017, Al-Awlaki's eight-year-old daughter was killed in a commando raid ordered by then-US President Donald Trump.

A statement issued by the pro-Houthi Yemeni armed forces said the conversation proved the existence "of direct relations between the CIA and Al-Qaeda terrorists and cooperation on the part of Saleh government's officials in formation of the relationship". Saleh was killed in 2017 after committing "treason" by switching sides during the war in Yemen after having entered into an alliance with his one-time foes, the Houthi movement following their 2014 takeover of the capital Sanaa. The Houthis and the Saleh government fought six intermittent wars between 2004 and 2010.

READ: Yemen: Houthis capture Al-Qaeda base

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