Saudi air strikes targeted ‘infiltrators’

Associated Press / November 7, 2009

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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - Saudi Arabia said yesterday that it carried out air strikes against “infiltrators’’ from Yemen that were limited to areas inside Saudi territory, and vowed to press on with the military action until the border was secure.

The statement, carried by the official Saudi Press Agency, did not identify the infiltrators or address claims by Arab diplomats on Thursday that the strikes hit across the boundary, targeting Shiite rebels who have been battling Yemeni government forces for the past few months.

The SPA statement stressed the Saudi military action was confined to areas within the kingdom’s borders.

In Yemen, however, a military official said Saudi forces yesterday continued to shell rebel positions in Saada province. He spoke on condition of anonymity.

The offensive threatens to embroil Riyadh in a conflict that has for months been a major source of worry for the oil-rich kingdom. Riyadh has been concerned about a spillover of the Yemeni fighting, of Iran’s alleged involvement in the conflict, and of the possibility that Yemen-based Al Qaeda militants could capitalize on the situation by smuggling fighters across the difficult-to-control border.

More broadly, it raises concerns of another proxy war in the Middle East between Iran and Saudi Arabia, a key US ally.

The Yemeni government has accused Shiite Iran of aiding the rebels while the rebels have accused Sunni Saudi Arabia, Iran’s fiercest regional rival, of carrying out bombing runs against them.

Arab diplomats and Yemeni rebels said Saudi fighter jets and artillery bombardments hit across the border into northern Yemen on Thursday - the first reported Saudi incursion into Yemen in years.