JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, (AFP) — US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Monday the US and Saudi Arabia were cooperating closely on security, and both shared a deep concern about Yemeni militant activities.
“We all share a concern about terrorist activity emanating from Yemen. Actions of the US in Yemen are with the consent (and) cooperation of the government of Yemen,” Napolitano said after meetings with King Abdullah and other top Saudi officials.
She told journalists Washington was helping Saudi Arabia develop security along the rugged, porous Saudi-Yemen border, across which militants smuggle weapons and operatives into Saudi Arabia.
“It is a very rough border… very difficult to protect from illegal crossings… so many of our discussions were about how to protect a very tough, geological, topographical border from illegal crossings,” she said.
Yemen is the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden and the home base of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has claimed responsibility for a failed Christmas airliner bomb plot over Detroit in the United States.
“The security coordination is very strong with Saudi Arabia,” Napolitano said, adding the two sides discussed at length programmes to counter the Islamic radicalisation that feeds Al-Qaeda, as well as efforts to prevent militant attacks.
Saudi Arabia’s extensive operations to halt radicalisation are “of great interest to the US,” she said, adding Washington and Sanaa are also closely cooperating in fighting Islamic militants in Yemen.
Napolitano, meanwhile, declined to comment on the Israeli attacks on a Gaza aid flotilla Monday which left a reported 19 people dead, saying any response would come from Washington.
Napolitano was to travel later Monday to Abu Dhabi to meet regional aviation authorities as part of a global effort to strengthen air security.
She said the December 25 attempt by a Nigerian who trained in Yemen to bring down the airliner over Detroit showed the world remains at risk from such attacks.