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AFRICA > Yemen claims foils al-Qaeda complot

SANAA - Reuters

Yemeni officials claim they have prevented an al-Qaeda attack that put US and other Western countries on red alert. Seven al-Qaeda militants have been killed in a US drone strike as Americans quit the country

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Foreign national walks towards the departure area of Sanaa International Airport before leaving Yemen. AFP photo

Foreign national walks towards the departure area of Sanaa International Airport before leaving Yemen. AFP photo

Yemeni security forces have foiled a plot by al-Qaeda to take over oil and gas export facilities and a provincial capital in the eastern part of the country, a government official said today as a U.S. drone strike killed seven Al-Qaeda suspects in the country’s southern Shabwa province early today.

Rajeh Badi, press advisor to Yemeni Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindwa, said the plot involved using dozens of al-Qaeda militants dressed in Yemeni army uniforms to storm the facilities on the night of the 27th of Ramadan, which was on Aug. 4, and hold them.

“The plot aimed to seize the al-Dabbah oil export terminal in Hadramout (province) and the Belhaf gas export facility, as well as the city of Mukalla,” Badi told Reuters, referring to the Hadramout provincial capital.

He said the plot was prevented by deploying extra troops around the targeted facilities and banning anyone from entering.

The United States has evacuated some U.S. diplomatic staff out of Yemen and told nationals to leave the country immediately after warnings of potential attacks that had prompted Washington to shut missions across the Middle East.

Other Western countries, including Britain, France, the Netherlands and Norway, also closed their embassies in Sanaa and some evacuated their staff.

A U.S. drone strike in the same day killed seven al-Qaeda suspects in the southern Shabwa province early yesterday, tribal sources said, amid fears of an imminent attack by the network’s deadly franchise.

Pullout serves extremists

The drone destroyed two vehicles in the town of Nasab and killed seven members of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the sources said. “The shell left the cars and the militants inside in pieces,” one said.

The raid is the fifth of its kind since July 28 and brings to 24 the number of suspects killed since then.

Washington has closed 19 embassies and consulates in the Middle East and Africa, citing intercepted communications among militants, reportedly including an attack order from Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

While the closures span cities across the Arab world, the focus of most concern has been Yemen, where American forces are fighting a drone war against Al-Qaeda’s powerful regional affiliate.

The Yemeni government late on Aug. 6, however, issued a strong response to the diplomatic withdrawal, stating it recognized the safety fears of foreign governments, but that the pullout “serves the interests of the extremists.” Such a step “undermines the exceptional cooperation between Yemen and the international alliance against terrorism,” the foreign ministry in Sanaa said.

Local authorities had “taken all necessary precautions to ensure the safety and security of foreign missions,” it stressed.

Some 75 non-essential staffers at the U.S. embassy in Sanaa exited on a military plane, an American official told Agence France-Presse on condition of anonymity.

The plane, accompanied by a support aircraft, flew to the U.S. air base in Ramstein, Germany, the official said.

August/07/2013

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