DUBAI, (Reuters) – The Yemeni government said on Saturday it would not tolerate any “terrorist” activities on its territories after Somali insurgents said they were ready to send reinforcements to al-Qaeda in Yemen.
Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi told Yemen’s news agency he was surprised at the Somali group’s statement.
“Rather than threatening to export terrorism to other (countries), they ought to help achieve security and stability in their own war-torn country,” Qirbi told Saba News.
Somalia’s Islamist rebel group al Shabaab said on Friday it was prepared to send fighters to help al Qaeda in Yemen if the United States carried out strikes.
“Yemen will not tolerate any terrorists elements on its territories and will be ready to retaliate against anyone looking to tamper with its security and stability,” Qirbi said.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemen branch of Osama bin Laden’s network, has claimed responsibility for the attempt by Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to bomb a U.S. plane carrying 300 people on Christmas Day.
The Islamist group said it was retaliating to U.S. support for the Yemeni government. Washington has increased training, intelligence and military equipment provided to Yemeni forces, helping them stage raids against suspected al Qaeda hideouts last month.
Yemeni and U.S. officials are reported to have mulled targets for retaliatory strikes against such groups inside Yemen.
The Pentagon’s main publicly disclosed counter-terrorism program for Yemen grew from $4.6 million in fiscal 2006 to $67 million in fiscal 2009. That figure does not include covert, classified assistance that the United States has provided.
On Saturday, a Yemeni official welcomed British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s invitation to host a meeting in London on Jan. 28 to discuss countering radicalisation in Yemen. The talks will be held in parallel with an international conference on Afghanistan the same day.
“This is a step in the right direction to intensify international efforts to support Yemen’s development,” an official source told Saba News. “Eradicating poverty, extremism and unemployment in developing societies is the way to end radicalism and ensure a suitable environment for such phenomenon is not created.”
Brown said on Friday Yemen presented a regional and global threat as an incubator and potential safe haven for terrorism.
Compounding the challenge from al Qaeda, Yemen faces a separatist rebellion in the south and an insurgency by rebels from the minority Shi’ite Zaidi sect in the north.