WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Yemeni intelligence files containing information about U.S.-supported counter terrorism operations and the names of informants have been looted by Iranian-allied Houthi rebels, the Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday.
The newspaper, citing U.S. officials, said the information was taken when the Houthi fighters seized the office of Yemen’s National Security Bureau, which had worked with the CIA and other intelligence agencies.
It added that intelligence officials believed additional files were given to Iranian advisers by Yemeni officials supporting the rebels.
The paper said there was no sign, however, that the Houthi militias had gained direct control of U.S. intelligence files.
But it said the loss of the intelligence played a role in the Obama administration’s move to evacuate its remaining personnel from Yemen last weekend, including about 100 special operations forces. The report did not say when the files were seized.
The end of a U.S. security presence inside the country has dealt a blow to Washington’s ability to monitor and fight al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate.
Yemen has been hurtling toward civil war since last year when Houthi militia seized the capital, Sanaa, effectively removing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, a U.S. ally who had supported Washington’s campaign of deadly drone strikes on the al Qaeda branch based in Yemen.
The CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies declined comment on the Los Angeles Times report.
But U.S. government sources told Reuters that Houthi forces in the past few weeks had occupied government buildings housing the offices and files of Yemeni security and intelligence agencies. Officials said on Wednesday that would have given the rebels access to sensitive files.
Reporting by Peter Cooney; Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Cynthia Osterman