Yemeni security forces arrested 11 men in the capital Sa'naa on suspicion of plotting attacks for al Qa'eda, killing one man during the operation, a security source said today. "The 11 men are currently under interrogation. They were planning to assassinate security officials and target interests in Sa'naa," the source said, without specifying what interests the 11 were suspected of targeting.
The source added that the raid took place in a residential area of the capital. Al Qa'eda militants have previously targeted Western embassies in the city. The man killed in the raid, who was the father of one of the suspects, opened fire on security forces, wounding one of them, before being shot dead, the defence ministry's 26sep.net news website said. One of the suspects also tried to resist but "all members of the cell were arrested," it added.
However, Yemeni human rights group Hood said that, according to the deceased man's family, he did not fire at security forces during the raid. The organisation identified him as retired police colonel Ahmed Azzam, 75. Yemen began an intensified campaign against al Qa'eda in late December as international pressure mounted after a failed attempt to blow up a US airliner on December 25 was claimed by the militant network's Arabian Peninsula arm.
Security forces arrested three suspected members of al Qa'eda on February 17 in Marib province, east of the capital, 26sep.net reported. On January 16, Yemen announced the arrest of three suspected al Qa'eda militants. The previous day, an air strike killed six al Qa'eda leaders, including the group's top commander in Yemen, Qassem al Rimi, officials said. And two days before that, a Yemeni official said security forces killed Abdullah Mehdar, an al Qa'eda leader in Shabwa province in the east.
The US central command chief general, David Petraeus, has said that Yemen is the one part of the Middle East where al Qa'eda remains a growing threat. "Our assessment is that over the course of the last year or so, al Qa'eda has been diminished in that area," Petraeus, said referring to his zone of command stretching from east Africa through the Middle East to Pakistan and Kazakhstan. "Saudi Arabia and the other peninsula countries have continued to make gains with the obvious exception of Yemen," Mr Petraeus told NBC television's "Meet the Press" programme.
The United States has reportedly supplied Yemen with intelligence and other support in its operations against al Qa'eda. In January, a group of Yemeni clerics called for a jihad, or a holy war, if the US undertook direct military intervention. "If any party insists on aggression, or invades the country, then according to Islam, jihad becomes obligatory," the clerics said. US President Barack Obama has said he has "no intention" of sending in troops.