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French embassy is latest to shut over security threats

The French embassy in the Yemeni capital has closed its doors to the public for security reasons, the foreign ministry reported. The move follows the closure of the US and British embassies in Sanaa and curtailed services at many others.


A decision by the U.S. and the UK to shut close their embassies in Yemen has triggered a domino effect, with France, Spain, Italy, and Japan being the latest countries to shut or curtail their consular services on Monday in the country’s capital, Sanaa.

The quick succession of diplomatic shutdowns was prompted by intelligence about an imminent strike by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the terrorist group that shot to prominence after claiming the recent botched Christmas Day attack on a US jet liner.


French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said France’s embassy in Sanaa would be closed to the public until further notice.

"On January 3, our ambassador decided to no longer authorise public access to the premises of our diplomatic mission," Valero told reporters in Paris.

French ambassador in Yemen, Joseph Silva, has also asked French citizens there to be particularly careful and avoid travel given the deteriorating security situation. Hundreds of French citizens live in Yemen, where French oil giant Total has built a four billion dollar plant to export liquefied natural gas from the Gulf of Aden.

News agencies reported extra security in the residential area of Sanaa that houses several embassies, with army vehicles blocking several streets, while Yemeni authorities said they took “preventive” measures to protect the airport.

Confronting al Qaeda


Western countries have become increasingly concerned that Yemen could turn into a haven for al Qaeda. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared this Monday that the deteriorating situation in Yemen was a serious threat with “global implications.”

Yemen: A new haven for Al-Qaeda?

Despite the waning authority of the central government in several regions, Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Kurbi said that Yemen was “capable” of dealing with its raging insurgencies.

"Yemen is capable of confronting these groups, but it needs international aid to form and train anti-terrorist units as well as economic aid, since the problem also has an economic dimension," said al-Kurbi, while rejecting any comparison between Yemen and Afghanistan.

Yemeni security forces took the initiative this Monday, killing two al Qaeda members they said were behind a threat that forced the US and European embassies to shut.

The forces were seeking to capture suspected al Qaeda member Mohammed al-Hanq when they clashed with his bodyguards, giving enough time for the top suspect to escape, according to tribal sources quoted by the AFP.

In a separate incident, a Yemeni policeman was killed as he tried to disperse a protest outside the offices of a banned newspaper in the southern city of Aden.

“Yemen is going through a difficult phase (…) Britain’s call for an intelligence conference on Yemen shows the sense of seriousness of the situation,” Mohammed Alqadi, a Yemeni political analyst, told FRANCE 24.

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