SANAA (Reuters) – Yemeni authorities have arrested eight suspected al Qaeda militants, including a Saudi fugitive, accused of plotting attacks on security installations, the defense ministry said Sunday.
The arrests of the eight came days after two suspected members of the same al Qaeda cell were detained following a house raid in the remote Hadramout province that sparked clashes in which three soldiers were killed.
“Two al Qaeda elements were arrested during a raid on a house where cell members were hiding, and eight others were caught in the following days,” the ministry said in its online newspaper.
Yemen, neighbor to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, has been a growing security concern for the West since a Yemen-based regional arm of al Qaeda claimed responsibility for an unsuccessful attempt to bomb a U.S.-bound plane in December.
Yemen’s Western and Saudi allies want Sanaa, also trying to cement a truce with northern Shi’ite rebels and quell southern separatist sentiment, to resolve its domestic conflicts and consolidate power so that it can focus on fighting al Qaeda.
Yemen escalated a crackdown on al Qaeda this year, and further stepped up security measures after accusing al Qaeda of a June 19 attack on the police intelligence building in the southern city of Aden that killed 11 people.
A security official said the group arrested in Hadramout was accused of preparing attacks on security and other vital installations in eastern province, but did not identify specific targets.
The defense ministry identified the Saudi who was arrested as Abdullah Faraj Mohamed Mahmoud al-Jawbar, who is on a list of 85 Saudis wanted by Riyadh. It added that authorities had found a suicide bomb belt during the house raid a week ago.