SANA'A // Yemen's government said yesterday it killed six suspected militants in an operation targeting al Qa'eda in the northern part of the country. The operation was carried out in the al Ajasher area between the northern provinces of Sa'ada and al Jawf close to the border with Saudi Arabia. "As part of the constant crackdown on terrorist elements of al Qa'eda, our air force launched a strike against a number of al Qa'eda militants - the strike killed six militants while two managed to run away," a security officer said in a statement yesterday.
The intelligence officer said the attack targeted a group of militants including Qasim al Raimi, Amar Obadah al Wa'eli, Saleh al Tais and Aydh Jaber al Shabwani while they were driving. Both vehicles were destroyed. Al Raimi is the military officer of al Qa'eda in the Arabian Peninsula which was established in January 2009 after the merging of al Qa'eda militants in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. He was sentenced to five years in jail in February 2005 after being convicted for plotting attacks on US, UK, French, Cuban and German embassies, as well as attacking a Hunt oil company helicopter and plotting an assassination of the US ambassador in Yemen.
Al Raimi was also among 23 militants who escaped from the intelligence prison in Sana'a in February 2006. The statement said security agents were hunting the two militants who survived the strike, without providing any further details on this operation which demonstrates a mounting battle against the group which claimed responsibility for the Christmas Day bombing attempt on a Detroit-bound airline.
The statement said this strike was a part of the open and continued war against al Qa'eda militants in the country. Saeed Obaid al Jamhi, a researcher who follows al Qa'eda, said if al Raimi was among those killed, it would be a "big blow" to the organisation. "It is not the first time the government has announced the killing of al Raimi. But, if it is true he has been killed, it would be a big blow to al Qa'eda. Al Raimi is a very important military leader in al Qa'eda and killing him means the government has been able to reach leading militants," said Mr al Jamhi.
The government said its air force launched strikes against an al Qa'eda training camp in Abyan in the south, killing more than 30 people, on December 17. But local sources said the Abyan attack killed about 60 civilians, mostly women and children. The government said the strike had killed four would-be suicide bombers who had planned to attack domestic and foreign interests in the country, including the British Embassy and that al Raimi had escaped.
Yemen's association of clerics warned on Thursday that they would call for jihad in the case of foreign military intervention amid growing concern that the United States might carry out direct strikes against al Qa'eda militants in the country. firstname.lastname@example.org