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Middle East

Foreign armies not involved in al Qaeda fight, says Yemen


Latest update : 2010-08-29

A Yemeni official has firmly denied reports that US and British troops are involved in the country’s ongoing battle against al Qaeda, a day after militants linked to the terrorist network killed nine soldiers in a pre-dawn attack.

AFP - Yemen denied on Sunday that foreign forces are involved in its battle against Al-Qaeda, as Sanaa's security forces went on high alert after nine soldiers were killed by suspected jihadists.

"We are surprised at groundless allegations in several media reports lately on the presence of British soldiers and on the arrival of US forces to aid in fighting terror in Yemen," the defence ministry's news website quoted a Yemeni official as saying.
The official said that Yemen's cooperation with the "United States or other countries" in fighting terrorism is "restricted to the exchange of information which facilitates its hunt (for) terrorist elements and handing them over to justice."
Suspected Al-Qaeda militants have carried out several attacks in past weeks against Yemeni soldiers, the latest of which killed nine soldiers and a civilian in the town of Jaar in the southern Abyan province on Saturday, according to a security official.
The soldiers were breaking the Ramadan fast at sunset when four armed militants attacked them using rocket-propelled grenades.
The militants chanted "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) and said they had come "from the town of Loder to avenge the death of our brothers there," the security official said, quoting a soldier who had escaped the attack. "The attack carries the fingerprints of Al-Qaeda," he added.
Deadly clashes last week between alleged Al-Qaeda militants and the army in Loder, in northern Abyan, killed at least 33 people, including 19 militants, according to an AFP tally based on official and medical sources.
The interior ministry on Saturday called for tighter security at intelligence headquarters throughout the country and said it had put security units on alert.
The ministry, in a statement posted on its website, stressed "the importance of increasing security vigilance and deploying patrols in the capital and the provinces, in addition to tightening security measures on vital facilities and buildings."
An unnamed US counter-terrorism official had told AFP on Wednesday that the United States was increasingly concerned about the threat posed by Al-Qaeda in Yemen and that it was moving to pile pressure on the militants.
He said Al-Qaeda affiliates had regrouped in Yemen and emerged as a "virulent" danger.
The US official spoke following reports in the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post citing US officials as saying that the new assessment of the threat raised the prospect of expanded US operations in Yemen, including CIA drone strikes.
Yemen has intensified its military campaign against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the group's local franchise, since December, mainly after the Christmas Day botched attempt to blow up a US airliner by Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who had spent time in Yemen.
Security forces on Friday arrested an alleged Al-Qaeda member who had fled from Loder following the deadly clashes there, reported.
The US military conducted a secret air strike in May against a suspected group of Al-Qaeda militants in the remote desert of Marib province, the New York Times reported earlier this month, citing unnamed US officials.
The US embassy in Sanaa, meanwhile, has suspended "all non-essential travel outside of Sanaa for embassy personnel... as a result of continuing threats from AQAP and its affiliates," it said in an online statement posted last week.
"American citizens travelling to or residing in Yemen should maintain a sense of heightened vigilance," the embassy added.
The embassy "also advised its personnel to avoid areas with significant crowds... where large numbers of foreigners gather, and large cultural or other events without a visible security presence."
"Enhanced security awareness also includes varying routes and times of movements to and from work."
South Yemen, especially Abyan province, is feared to have become a base for Al-Qaeda militants to regroup under AQAP.
The country is the ancestral homeland of Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden.


Date created : 2010-08-29


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