Last Updated: Tue Dec 13, 2011 23:27 pm (KSA) 20:27 pm (GMT)

Yemen arrests al-Qaeda members for attack plans on foreign targets

Yemen’s army has taken control of Zinjibar, the capital of southern Abyan province, from Islamist militants suspected of links to al-Qaeda. (Reuters)
Yemen’s army has taken control of Zinjibar, the capital of southern Abyan province, from Islamist militants suspected of links to al-Qaeda. (Reuters)

Six wanted al-Qaeda militants who were plotting to attack foreign targets have been arrested by Yemeni authorities, the defense ministry said on Tuesday.

The ministry said the suspected militants were also plotting to attack local government figures, while a similar report by the state news agency Saba said the suspects included an al-Qaeda leader that he was suspected of leading a cell that attacked Sana’a airport in 2009.

“These elements were conducting surveillance (on) targets they wanted to conduct terrorist operations against, including leaders and prominent state figures as well as government facilities and Arab and foreign missions,” Saba quoted a security source as saying.

The agency published mug shots of the six suspects who it said were also accused of recruiting youths to fight with militants in other provinces of Yemen, which was plunged into widespread disorder by an anti-government uprising this year.

They were among 16 who tunneled their way out of a prison in Aden, although an interior ministry official denied any al-Qaeda link, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, al-Qaeda linked gunmen fired on a Yemeni military vehicle killing three soldiers and wounding 11 others near the southern city of Zinjibar, a military source told AFP.

“Al-Qaeda gunmen attacked Monday evening a military vehicle while en route to a base east of Zinjibar, causing it to overturn,” said the official requesting anonymity.

“Three soldiers were killed and 11 others wounded,” in the attack, he said.

Diplomatic boost

Ambassadors of the five U.N. Security Council members and Gulf Arab diplomats on Tuesday met government officials and a committee overseeing a ceasefire in Yemen’s commercial capital Taez, where fighting had raged in recent weeks.

“They said they would support the national unity government’s efforts to tackle the impact of the clashes in Taez,” said Abdullah Noman, an opposition leader who attended the meeting. “The ambassadors focused on the future, on reconstruction efforts”.

Saleh loyalists and opponents began withdrawing from the streets of Taez last week after a fragile truce was agreed to put an end to street battles in which dozens were killed.

Under a plan brokered by Gulf Arab states with the help of a U.N. envoy, members of Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC) and opposition parties divided cabinet posts between them to form a cabinet that will lead the country to presidential elections next February.

Detainees freed

Also on Tuesday, the Yemeni interior minister ordered the release of all detainees held in connection with nearly 11 months of protests in Sana’a to press President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down after 33 years in office, state news agency Saba said.

Activists said the decision, which follows a peace deal that resulted in the establishment of a unity government headed by an opposition leader, could affect up to 1,400 people held in the capital since protests began in February.

“We are not certain yet that all have been released,” said Mane’ al-Mutairi, an activist, told Reuters, adding that most of those held in relation to the protests were in Sana’a.

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