Yemeni army thwarts suicide attack in Sanaa
Thursday, 21 June 2012 07:29 GMT
The US has increased the use of drone strikes in Yemen
Sanaa – Khaled HarojiYemeni security forces on Wednesday pounded a militant base in the country's restive south, killing 30 suspected al-Qaeda operatives in air strikes while claiming to have foiled a plot to attack embassies. A Yemeni Red Cross worker was also killed in the air raids as he travelled in the south on a mission to help negotiate the release of a kidnapped French colleague, a relative told AFP.
The aircraft carried out several strikes, the mayor of Mahfed town on the outskirts of Abyan and Shabwa provinces, Yaslam al-Anburi, told news agencies by telephone. “There were 30 deaths in Qaeda ranks for sure.”
Yemen's defence ministry confirmed airstrikes in the valley of Thaiqa, Mahfed district, but did not give casualty figures.
Earlier, a tribal chief said three suspected militants were killed and four wounded in an air raid targeting a group of al-Qaeda fighters in a desert region between Abyan and Shabwa provinces.
Red Cross worker Hussein Saleh, killed in the air strikes yesterday, was in the region along with the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for the southern port city of Aden, Saleh’s relative said.
He was on a mission to help secure the release of a French ICRC employee who was abducted in April, he added, while the ICRC said Saleh died in unclear circumstances while on a humanitarian mission.
The ICRC delegation head in Yemen, Eric Marclay, added: “We are devastated by the tragic loss of our friend and colleague Hussein,” who leaves behind a pregnant wife and four children.
On April 22, the ICRC said a French member of its staff was abducted in western Yemen. There has been no news of him since then.
Meanwhile, Yemen’s security forces foiled a militant plot to attack embassies in Sanaa, state news agency SABA said on Wednesday, just days after the army forced Qaeda out of bastions in the south.
“Security forces have managed to foil a terror plot targeting foreign embassies in the capital,” SABA said, citing a top security official.
The official said “three suspects armed with weapons, explosives and maps showing the location of foreign embassies” were detained.
He said the residences of “military commanders and other important people” were also marked on the maps.
The report comes two days after the death of Salem Ali Qatn, the general who spearheaded a month-long offensive against al-Qaeda in Yemen’s Abyan and Shabwa provinces in the south.
The offensive, launched on May 12, ended more than a year of al-Qaeda’s control of a string of towns and villages in the troubled south and east.
The militants are believed to have fled to the lawless mountainous regions of the eastern Hadramouth province.
Meanwhile, in the southern province of Bayda, security forces killed local al-Qaeda leader Salah al-Jawhari and two other “suicide bombers who were preparing to target military and security commanders in Bayda,” SABA on Wednesday cited the same official as saying.
Jawhari was “in charge of Qaeda suicide cells in both Sana’a and Bayda,” the official said.
However, residents of the province’s al-Yafea district gave a different version of events, saying a drone had fired missiles at al-Jawhari’s vehicle - indicating it was a US attack.
The United States has escalated its use of drones to kill suspected al-Qaeda militants in the impoverished Gulf country.
Security forces also arrested Majed al-Qulaisi, “a member of the (Qaeda) cell that planned” the deadly suicide attack that killed more than 100 troops at a military parade rehearsal in Sanaa last month, he said.
A Tunisian, “one of Qaeda’s most dangerous foreign nationals in Yemen,” Nizar Abdel Rahman, was also arrested on Wednesday, the official said.
After taking office in February, President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi pledged to destroy al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the network’s local branch, which is considered by Washington as the group’s most active and deadly.
Fighting against the militants continued until early Wednesday and it took place about 15km (10 miles) from Azan in Shabwa province, officials said. The army seized the town earlier this week and militants fled to mountainous areas. Three soldiers were killed and one was wounded.