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US general Petraeus meets Yemeni president for anti-terrorism talks

Yemen's president Ali Abdullah Saleh met US General David Petraeus on Saturday to discuss boosting military cooperation after President Barack Obama linked al Qaeda's regional arm to the Christmas Day attempt to blow up a US passenger jet.


AFP - Yemen, the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden, sent reinforcements to hunt Al-Qaeda militants in its east, security sources said Saturday as a top US general affirmed support for Sanaa's terrorism fight.

General David Petraeus, the US regional military commander, made the pledge in a meeting with Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh at which he delivered a message from US President Barack Obama, the official Yemeni Saba news agency said.

Security sources said meanwhile Yemen sent army reinforcements to the eastern provinces of Abyan, Bayada and Shawba, where Al-Qaeda militants have hideouts, and raised the alert level in those regions.

"These measures are part of operations to hunt down elements of Al-Qaeda, prevent any attempt of a response after the raids, and tighten the noose around extremists," one of the sources said.

Security forces were also dispatched in moves announced as Obama on Saturday accused a Yemen-based Al-Qaeda affiliate of arming and training a young Nigerian man for a failed suicide mission to blow up a US airliner.

In his weekly radio and video address, Obama promised to hold the group, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), to account for the failed Christmas Day bombing of a Northwest Airlines jet heading for Detroit.

AQAP on Monday claimed the failed bombing by 23-year-old Nigerian suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, in a statement picked up by US monitors.

"We know that he traveled to Yemen, a country grappling with crushing poverty and deadly insurgencies," Obama said in his address.

"It appears that he joined an affiliate of Al-Qaeda, and that this group, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, trained him, equipped him with those explosives and directed him to attack that plane headed for America."

Obama said that because of past attacks by the Al-Qaeda affiliate, he had, even before the December 25 attempt, stepped up US cooperation with Yemen.

"Training camps have been struck; leaders eliminated; plots disrupted," he said. "And all those involved in the attempted act of terrorism on Christmas must know: you too will be held to account."

Yemeni forces launched raids on suspected Al-Qaeda targets in the central and the Sanaa regions on December 17 and 24, killing more than 60 Islamist militants.

Several others were also wounded in clashes this week in a western province of the impoverished Arabian peninsula state which lies north of Somalia across the Gulf of Aden.

Petraeus praised the Yemeni president "for the success of the operations" against Al-Qaeda, and reaffirmed Washington's support for Yemen in its efforts to fight terrorism, Saba news agency reported.

He also delivered a message from Obama related in particular to bilateral cooperation in the fight against terrorism and piracy.

Saleh thanked Washington for its help and reiterated that Sanaa was determined to combat terrorism with the assistance of the United States and the international community, the Saba report said.

In the 2010 fiscal year, US development and security assistance to Yemen is expected to rise to 63 million dollars from a total of 40.3 million dollars in the 2009 fiscal year, a State Department official said Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Kurbi said in a BBC interview on Tuesday that as many as 300 Al-Qaeda militants were in Yemen, and called for more Western help against the Islamist militants.

On Saturday, Kurbi said Yemen will not allow foreign fighters to infiltrate the country after Somalia's Shebab insurgents said they will send militants to help the Al-Qaeda affiliate behind the failed US airliner bombing.

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