By Carlo Muñoz - 11/05/12 08:09 PM EST
Yemeni troops reportedly thwarted a bombing plot designed to destroy one of the primary counterterrorism hubs used by U.S. and local forces against al Qaeda-linked terror cells in the country.
Local security forces stationed at Yemen's Al Anad Air Base in the southern part of the country uncovered a car filled with explosives and anti-tank missiles parked next to the facility's main gate on Monday, according to Reuters.
"This was a planned suicide attack," the official added.
The base, located in Lahj province south of Yemen's capitol Sanaa, is one of two major facilities used by American forces to support the ongoing counterterrorism offensive by the country's military against al Qaeda positions along the country's southern coast.
Along with the joint U.S.-Yemen base in Aden, both facilities are allegedly the main command and control centers for U.S.-led drone strikes against suspected members of al Qaeda's cell in the country, known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Pentagon officials are planning to expand both locations to include two new "expeditionary bases" for U.S. forces as part of a $75 million counterterrorism package for Sanaa sent to Capitol Hill in July.
A 20-man U.S. special operations force is already on the ground in Yemen, providing satellite imagery, drone video, eavesdropping systems and other technical means to point out suspected al Qaeda targets to U.S. and Yemeni forces, according to news reports.
News of the bombing plot comes as American intelligence and military officials have begun to expand the use of armed drones strikes into the northern part of the country.
A set of American armed drone strikes last Sunday in Wadi al-Abu Jabara, a known al Qaeda stronghold roughly 150 miles north of Sanaa, was the first time American forces had gone after targets in the northern part of the country.
Three suspected al Qaeda members, a Yemeni national and two Saudi Arabians, were killed during the attack, according to recent reports.
Late last month, CIA requested an expansion of its drone fleet in the region to take out al Qaeda cells in Yemen, Pakistan and northern Africa, according to reports in The Washington Post.
The request for 10 additional unmanned aircraft, which would likely be based at the U.S. military outpost in Djibouti, would bring the agency's fleet up to 30 to 35 drones in Africa.